Stereo System Overhaul in HT Room - 30k budget

Hi everyone,

I’m a newer audiophile that raced to assemble a HT system over the last two years, buying all new speakers, but purchasing used electronics to get it built out quickly. Now that I have that system assembled, I’m now looking to refine my stereo system over time, to get the best stereo system I can while still integrating it into my HT space.

The upgrades I am thinking of making are, and in order…

  1. Replace Def Tech 8080ST towers with GoldenEar Reference Speakers (10k)
  2. Replace Def Tech 8080CS center with the GoldenEar SuperCenter (1,700)
  3. Replace Emotiva XSP-1 pre-amp with Anthem STR Pre-amp (4k)
  4. Replace Anthem P2 AMP with Anthem STR Power AMP (6k)
  5. Replace Cambridge Audio CXN Streamer/ DAC with PS Audio DirectStream DAC (6k)

My questions before breaking down my reasoning for these upgrades are:

  1. Is this an appropriate budget for speaker to electronics ratio?
  2. Are there any identifiable “weak links” in this solution?
  3. Are there other suggestions for speakers that you guys would recommend or what do you think of the GE’s?
  4. And finally, If this setup is crazy, please don’t hold back. :slight_smile: I will obviously audition anything I’ll buy and ultimately, I have to be the one that likes it… But I’m really open to hearing input from this forum because you guys are really helpful, knowledgeable, and have a lot more experience than I do.

From here out, this is just additional “stuff” that you don’t have to read. But It explains my thinking a bit more. I almost exclusively stream music, but have a cheap TT and Oppo Blu-Ray for the occasional physical media that I use.

With respect to the speakers, I love having the built in, powered subs. And both my def techs and GE’s have incredible dynamics, can play EXTREMLY loud (which I don’t do that often, but it’s nice to have), and the sound stage is great on both. But, the GE’s have far more resolving power, far, far better imaging, they have more robust bass, the drivers seem to be integrated better than the def techs, and while I love the design goals of the AN3s, they won’t have a matching center to my knowledge, and they will end up costing at least 7k more.

Pre-amp wise, I really like that the Anthem has room correction, HT Bypass, bass management and an integrated DAC that I can use until I can upgrade to the PS Audio DS. Additionally, it has a phono stage, an AES input, so I can shop for used, higher end TT and CD Transports and use the built in features, until I could upgrade to separates.

Then with respect to the Amp, I love the matching look of the Anthem STR, the dial, and it would have plenty of power for any other speakers I might buy in the future. But I’m open to a LOT here… The PS Audio M1200 sounds like it’s going to be pretty amazing. The current M700’s might be a good match. I know that Premaluna has a big fan base out there and they have been paired with the GE’s at various shows. But my current AMP is fine for the time being… But for an AB class amp, at this price point and quality, I think this might be hard to beat. And I might get the DS before the amp just because it’s working fine for me and I don’t envision a big improvement by swapping this out.

Then with respect to streaming, I love, LOVE the DirectStream DAC. I can stream directly with it. I can hook up a transport and play SCDs, it’s upgradeable, Qobuz, Roon, I love, LOVE this… (Maybe I should start by asking what system would you build around it? :smiley: ) I know that 6k for a source is somewhat high for speakers costing only 10k, but I’m open to eventually upgrading those as well.

Anyway - thank you all for any input and your suggestions and I hope all of you have a great holiday season here!

I had the 8080 Def Techs and swapped them out for Tekton Electrons and Tekton Double Impact center. That was a huge SQ improvement. I think going to the GE Reference will be just that much better. They very are highly regarded. I planned on buying a set of Tekton Encores or the GE Reference to replace the Electrons but some unexpected life surprises have put a hold on that particular upgrade for a bit.
I have the DS DAC’s (jr and sr) as many folks here do and really like both of them. I don’t think you can go wrong with your speaker or DAC choices.

Consider running a phantom center channel. Good or great L and R can be spooky good, think solid center image.

Or even better, 4 identical speakers with phantom center.

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If you are open to purchasing used gear I would recommend picking up Revel Salons over the Golden Ear. They are widely regarded as Titan killers, competing with other speakers in the $60k plus range.

  1. Revel Ultima Salon 2 (typically found below $11k on the used market)
    here is a pair under $10k:

  2. Revel Ultima Voice 2 (typically found below $5k on the used market)
    here is one under $4k:

I also noticed you listed MSRP pricing, never pay MSRP for audio equipment. The discounts you can yield on the Anthem gear and PS Audio DAC will cover the difference in price of the Revels.

Good luck,


Your questions are very complex, I have been where you are and last year I upgraded my system in part like you are proposing. I used to work in the industry 20+ years ago at what was considered a high end retailer, I will be blunt honest about a couple of things in my response.

First of all, let me say that when you get serious about audio (and video) your expectations will get higher as you gain experience. That is the fundamental reason so many people are always upgrading. You will eventually get to a point where the cost to gain a noticeable improvement will be above your willingness or capability to spend the $. I have an idea what my “lottery dream system” would be, and it would cost seven figures. My current system is along the same lines as your budget.

By far speakers are the most important thing to get correct in your system. they impart the most character. That character cannot be significantly changed by the electronics, as long as we presuppose the electronics are adequate to do the job. Get speakers that you love to listen to and that are capable enough to perform how you expect them to.

Let me explain this a little bit; If you love the sound of a speaker, but it is too small for your room it will not play loud enough, or may lack adequate bass response. I used to sell Def Techs, and they are good speakers. Golden Ears were developed by the same man, Sandy Gross, so they are very similar. In most cases I would consider them a step up. The particular models you are talking about the Golden Ears would be a higher end model than the Def Tech, even if they were in the same line of speakers from the same manufacturer. The Golden Ears are both higher quality (better fidelity) and more capable (play louder and lower.) The later is very important in a home theater and with people who like to experience their 2 channel systems at listening levels that resemble a live performance. (This holds true for everything from classical to rock.) I have had the privilege of visiting PS Audio and Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven sounds great on Paul’s IRS Vs!

Replacing your Emotiva Pre/Pro with the Anthem is a fundamental change. The Emotiva includes surround processing, and the Anthem STR is a 2 channel preamp. If you integrate the Anthem, what would you use for your surround processor? Two issues with this upgrade logic. The STR has a good DAC built in, as do all audiophile Pre/pros with surround. I think you are wasting your $ if you know you want to (eventually) get a DS DAC in the same system. Instead get a good 2 channel preamp that does not duplicate functions (BHK preamp or other such audiophile preamp with HT bypass.) More on this later.

An equivalent replacement from Anthem would be the AVM 60, and a fidelity improvement would be the D2v 3D, which is great, but getting a bit old. An upgrade for your system with in the Emotiva line would be the new RMC - 1. My experience with AV processors, I am on my third one, has been I need to wait 8 to 10 years to get a significant improvement. I started with a Marantz AV550, then a Yamaha RX-Z7, and now have a Yamaha CX-A5200. The upgrades were as much for the functionality and video as the sound. You will be best served to decide if a great AV Pre/Pro can get the fidelity you want, or if you want to go with a hybrid system that uses an audiophile preamp with HT bypass and a quality surround processor. I have seen people put together great systems both ways.

I look at it this way; for similar $ you can get a DirectStream Sr. DAC, audiophile preamp with HT bypass and a good surround processor, OR go with an upper end PRE/Pro such as McIntosh, DataSat, JBL, Krell etc. Both types of systems can get you to the same place.

I bought a DS Sr. last year when they had it on sale for $4000. I did not get the Bridge II as I have a server I like that has streaming capabilities and most of my music is on a local NAS. I can switch between the DAC in the CX-5200 and the DS Sr. feeding through the balanced inputs of the Yamaha, and the DS Sr sounds better. My eventual goal is to use the DS Sr. in a stand alone system for 2 channel only with a dedicated server such as a Beatis or one of the forthcoming PS audio models. OR I also have the flexibility to go with a hybrid system if I move the two channel equipment to the living room and leave the whole house system where it is.

I agree with you about the P2, it is a not well know but very strong amplifier. Switching out the Anthem P2 for the STR amp is a lateral move for ascetics, I doubt you will see much, if any, fidelity improvement. The P2 is a great amp provided you get it an adequate electric feed. (I would spend the $ on 20 amp dedicated circuits for your system.) The current PS audio M700 amps would be a fidelity improvement, with similar power capabilities to your P2. I replaced an Anthem A5 with three M700s and an S300 and it was a noticeable improvement. I upgraded both the power and fidelity. My dealer also traded in my A5 using PS audio’s generous policy, so it was a good value.

I think you would be better off waiting for the M1200 (last I heard around $4000 each), or getting something equivalent from another manufacturer. The key factor for amplifiers is to get enough power for your needs with the fidelity you desire. There are many more great amplifiers out there than DACs, and technological improvements are not coming in as large of steps. For me the Class D M700s work better in my system than the Class A/B Anthem A5 did. My electronics are in another room from my mid level in-wall speakers and are connected by 100 ft wire runs. (Gotta keep the wife happy!)

I have reached the limits of my attention span for now, but let me close with this: You do not mention a budget for speaker wire and interconnect cables. When you start talking about equipment of this level it is a factor. You could easily justify several thousand dollars on interconnects and speaker wire to get all you can from the equipment.



Thank you all for your input! I really appreciate it! Tony - I’ll check out the Revel speakers if I can find them at a local dealership and listen to those v. the GE’s.

HLG - thank you for taking so much time to write something so detailed and for your help! I really appreciate it. A little more background - but yes - I want to essentially preserve the hybrid system/ solution I have now where Stereo is isolated from HT via a preamp w/ HT bypass. The XSP-1 from Emotiva is actually a two channel preamp with HT bypass, not a processor / pre-pro. (For that, I’m using a Marantz AV7702mkii.) So the Anthem STR preamp would be a direct replacement for the Emotiva XSP-1, but it would also add a pretty good DAC, stereo room correction, an AES/EBU connection for a transport should I buy one in the future, and a far better MC/MM phono stage should I buy a higher end TT down the road.

Also, based on what you have written, I think that it might be wise to purchase and AMP last, and buy the DS SR before that. That gives me a drastically upgraded DAC and streamer (which is what I use for 99% of my listening currently.) and then I’ll take some time to evaluate the M1200 v. the Anthem and potentially others.

And finally, I already put in a dedicated 20 AMP circuit for my AV Stuff (Paul’s son’s videos actually inspired that upgrade… ) and have been making some cable purchases already, but you’re right, I’ll have to look at upgrading the cables too as I make these purchases (I left some headroom in there for that consideration…)

Thank you all again!