Long Winded Post for Advice

Apologies for the extremely long winded post to follow, and if I posted in the wrong thread.

I just signed up for an account here because I like what I see in this forum and will be looking for advice on possible upgrades to my humble, little system. But first a little background. About a year ago I decided to kick my AV receiver to the curb and free myself from the tangle of cords, wires, and ugly black box speakers that inhabited my living room (I don’t have a dedicated listening room). I had decided to go back to my first love, stereo music. So I got my over 30-year-old stereo receiver (Yamaha RX-700U bought new in 1987) out of its box, and keeping the 20-year-old Paradigm Titans (bought new in 1997) from my 5.1 system, I went back to listening to 2 channel music. I have added a Google Chromecast Audio connected to one of the receiver’s analog inputs for streaming music from Spotify, and am currently using a barely working CD player for my collection of CDs (the tray decides when it wants to work).

I fully realize I might not fit the profile of a typical audiophile. Everything I read about Roon and Network Attached Storage seems overly complicated to me for music listening. I despise maintaining computers and the thought of setting up a network, a file storage system, and backups has absolutely no appeal to me. It may be far simpler than I believe, but I sit behind computer screens all day at work and the last thing I want to do at home during my leisure time is wrestle with any type of networking/distribution issues. At work I can just call IT when I have problem; not an option at home. Not to mention I don’t have a spare computer laying around to dedicate to music listening. I’m not saying having a network with ripped files is a bad thing, and after the initial set-up I’m sure that things become simpler, it’s just not my cup of tea.

Anyway, when I moved back to a 2 channel set-up I began perusing all the audio-centric websites in an attempt to learn about the latest developments to help me decide on future upgrades to my aging system. And I have come away more confused than when I started. So many questions.

Like why do music streamers cost so much? I know the Chromecast Audio is not the last word in technology, but come on, it was $35, and it works beautifully. And if I’m so inclined I can add a “better” DAC to its output.

What is the real difference sonically between a $300 CD player and a $3,000 player?

Is there any reason why I should replace a perfectly functioning 30-year-old receiver with a new integrated amplifier?

I want to replace my Paradigm Titans with something newer and more visually appealing, while keeping the cost under $500 for the pair. So many choices. What will be the best choice for the type of sonic character I like?

Maybe I shouldn’t replace my CD player and look for a different, non-computer based streaming system instead?

I know, lots of questions. So I will start with just one, with the hope people are still reading this long winded introduction.

In all my research for an economical streaming system that could be used for both streaming a subscription service and FLAC files saved to a storage device I have landed on the possibility of using an Android based DAP. For instance, the FiiO M6 looks like it might just do all I need for just $150. Stream Spotify or some other music subscription service? Check. Stream FLAC files? Check.

So the question is, can I use the M6 to easily stream FLAC files stored on micro-SD to the Chromecast Audio? Looking at the information on FiiOs website is a little confusing on this.

And if not the Chromecast, I was thinking I could go with the iFi Audio ZEN DAC, using the USB out of the M6 to the DAC and my phone as a simple remote.

Or maybe even the iFi ZEN Blue to stream from the M6 using one of the latest Bluetooth codecs.

Sorry , this really has gotten long. Just looking for opinions on plus/minus of using a DAP for streaming.

P.S.

With saving for retirement, a teenager looking to go to college, and all the regular household expenses I am restricting myself to a tight budget. So that’s why I’m looking to keep solutions below $500.
 

TubeHiFiNut

Administrator
I use a Sonos Connect into a Schiit Modi Uber in the Living Room system and it sounds wonderful to me.

Blue Sound also has some reasonable streaming options.

I pay for monthly Qobuz and Tidal streaming subscriptions and have access to all the music I could ever want.

lr system 20190630.jpg
 
I use a Sonos Connect into a Schiit Modi Uber in the Living Room system and it sounds wonderful to me.

Blue Sound also has some reasonable streaming options.

I pay for monthly Qobuz and Tidal streaming subscriptions and have access to all the music I could ever want.

View attachment 21535

TubeHiFiNut, I have looked at both the Connect and the Bluesound Node 2i. They both seem like great devices and are under consideration. Then when continuing my research I came across the idea of using a DAP with the extra bonus of having something portable for listening to music, and it's cheaper.
 

TubeHiFiNut

Administrator
TubeHiFiNut, I have looked at both the Connect and the Bluesound Node 2i. They both seem like great devices and are under consideration. Then when continuing my research I came across the idea of using a DAP with the extra bonus of having something portable for listening to music, and it's cheaper.

That would also work.

Lots of ways to get from point A to point B. :)
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
Everything I read about Roon and Network Attached Storage seems overly complicated to me for music listening.

It's not very complicated, though it can be expensive. At a minimum you'd need an existing computer in the house to act as the server (Roon Core), and also you'd need a network which I'm confused about in your current set-up, as I didn't think Chromecast Audio could be utilized in standalone fashion. I thought the CCA had to join a network, but you say you don't want to set-up a network.

Like why do music streamers cost so much? I know the Chromecast Audio is not the last word in technology, but come on, it was $35, and it works beautifully.

They don't have to, and the CCA you have is one such example if 3.5mm analog/Toslink optical is sufficient. If however you'd like to use a USB DAC, then your $35 solution is undoubtedly a Raspberry Pi. Yes it's a tiny computer, one that runs a lean-Linux OS, and fits in the palm of your hand, while drawing close to no electricity. A Raspberry Pi is super flexible in that it can be streamed to in a number of different ways, anything from Logitech Media Server/Squeezelite, to DLNA/UPnP, or even Roon are all possible and the software for it is free open-source (FOSS). Don't let the nomenclature be off-putting, the software is easy to install and use.

What is the real difference sonically between a $300 CD player and a $3,000 player?

Design-wise most of the difference is in the power supply, and analog output stage, though that's not to say the digital board wouldn't also be different. However the point of diminishing returns hits pretty fast, and the thing that contributes the least sonically but the most in terms of cost is cosmetic, the face plate and chassis.
The power supply, analog output stage and digital board all make a difference sonically, however you wouldn't bother pairing a $3k CD player with budget system components as you wouldn't realize the refinements it offers if your amp/pre and speakers aren't up to the task of throwing a big precise stereo soundstage, and ditto for the tonal balance refinements, they too would be obscured by use of budget downstream pieces so that question is really moot. You would never start a system build with a $3k CD player, though you might start with a $3k set of loudspeakers.

I want to replace my Paradigm Titans with something newer and more visually appealing, while keeping the cost under $500 for the pair. So many choices. What will be the best choice for the type of sonic character I like?

No easy answer to that one, it matters both as to your own subjective taste, the acoustics of the room you have them in, and the partnering equipment such as the amplifier. Some speakers are harder to drive than others and require more amp power, some rooms are acoustically pretty good and/or forgiving, have carpet, drapes etc and don't need any treatments, while other rooms can be very challenging. Most importantly, you need to go listen to these speakers to get a feel for what you like and don't like, or buy them with a money back guarantee in the event they don't pair up nicely with your room/partnering equipment/taste. BTW - Paradigm Titans offered great value in their day, they were pretty damn good for the money, but they just have little/no bass, much like nearly every other shoe box sized speaker.

Maybe I shouldn’t replace my CD player and look for a different, non-computer based streaming system instead?

Doesn't have to be non-computer, the tiny $35 Raspberry Pi is a micro computer, and it can run free easy to use software that makes it purpose built for music streaming. Many of us here use it.
In all my research for an economical streaming system that could be used for both streaming a subscription service and FLAC files saved to a storage device I have landed on the possibility of using an Android based DAP.

Sure, or even a repurposed older Android phone/tablet. You'd need one that can connect to a USB DAC for best sound quality, but if you have such an Android device available to you already, that's one less thing to buy, you'd just need a USB DAC and a couple of Android apps. The downside is the need to charge such devices, and while charging, you can't listen via USB as the port is being used to charge. That gets old fast, unless you like Bluetooth. I'm not a big fan of Bluetooth, though it has come a long way and some of the codecs are at least decent/good, if not very good.

For instance, the FiiO M6 looks like it might just do all I need for just $150. Stream Spotify or some other music subscription service? Check. Stream FLAC files? Check.

FiiO makes nice stuff in the budget category, but that too is a little handheld computer, it is computer audio.

So the question is, can I use the M6 to easily stream FLAC files stored on micro-SD to the Chromecast Audio? Looking at the information on FiiOs website is a little confusing on this.

I don't believe that unit has any inherent Chromecast support at all, though it is possible that any given Android app that it runs might connect to your Chromecast, but that's a question for that specific app.

And if not the Chromecast, I was thinking I could go with the iFi Audio ZEN DAC, using the USB out of the M6 to the DAC and my phone as a simple remote.

Sure, though you'd be tethered by a USB cable. Alternatively, the Bluetooth version of that DAC would untether you, though at some loss of sound quality on lossless tracks such as those from Qobuz or Tidal, or locally stored files on microSD. You would not notice any difference using high bitrate Bluetooth with lossy streams such as Spotify however. I don't think you can use a phone as a remote with the M6, all control of media playback would likely be through the M6's touch screen itself.

I know, lots of questions.

Yup, break them up into the appropriate sub forums, for instance loudspeaker questions go exactly there, while digital streaming questions go in the digital forum, etc...
 
Is there any reason why I should replace a perfectly functioning 30-year-old receiver with a new integrated amplifier?

In my opinion, yes. There are now a great array of amplification options, that are relatively inexpensive, that have raised the bar light-years beyond the old Yamaha. Yamaha themselves have a fantastic line of integrated amps, some with on-board DAC functionality, and some with on-board streaming capability. PS Audio has the Sprout and Sprout 100, which are both very highly regarded. Inexpensive Class-D amps are nearly ubiquitous now; some of us are running them and have been wildly impressed with the price/performance. There are even bookshelf speakers that are self-powered, and that have built-in streaming capability. This basically leaves you with speakers, and a smartphone app. That's it. And this is not gimmick level equipment, but some very nice, well designed gear. Of course cheap, gimmicky stuff is out there, but there's so much good stuff that this really is a brand new golden age of home audio.

Pick the direction (whether specific or nebulous) you want to go, and investigate what's out there. Of course, we'd be glad to give suggestions as well. Welcome to the Haven!
 
MikeyFresh, Thank you for taking the time look at my post. I will be breaking this up to the appropriate sub-forums starting with the digital front end, since that will be my primary focus as my CD player may not have long to live. I was just looking for a sort of catch all to get started with a little history. And as far as a network, yes I have WiFi but no NAS device I can pull music from. I only stream Spotify to the Chromecast Audio.
 
In my opinion, yes. There are now a great array of amplification options, that are relatively inexpensive, that have raised the bar light-years beyond the old Yamaha. Yamaha themselves have a fantastic line of integrated amps, some with on-board DAC functionality, and some with on-board streaming capability. PS Audio has the Sprout and Sprout 100, which are both very highly regarded. Inexpensive Class-D amps are nearly ubiquitous now; some of us are running them and have been wildly impressed with the price/performance. There are even bookshelf speakers that are self-powered, and that have built-in streaming capability. This basically leaves you with speakers, and a smartphone app. That's it. And this is not gimmick level equipment, but some very nice, well designed gear. Of course cheap, gimmicky stuff is out there, but there's so much good stuff that this really is a brand new golden age of home audio.

Pick the direction (whether specific or nebulous) you want to go, and investigate what's out there. Of course, we'd be glad to give suggestions as well. Welcome to the Haven!

jhoyt, I agree that there are many relatively inexpensive options to choose from, but do they really sound that much better than an old, well built receiver? Enough so to justify the cost? My receiver coast me $480 new in 1987 and I guess I feel that yes, they can now build amps that perform just as well for the same cost, which is really a much lower cost (2020 $480 dollars), but will today's $480 dollar amp sound that much better?

Having said that, Class-D amps really have me intrigued because of the small form factor and ease of positioning without much worry about heat.

Also seriously considering powered speakers as a replacement and further simplification.
 

rogerfederer

Junior Member
this is a very good place to start with class D: Volt+ D (Double) 2x60W
uses the new Texas Instruments TPA3xxx family of chips. pretty sure it is much better than your yamaha, if it provides enough power for your speakers of choice. super detailed, very quiet. for the $ just can't recommend it highly enough.
type of music you listen to, volume, size of room?
allo also makes a great raspberry pi based streamer: DigiOne Player SPDIF Out
 
jhoyt, I agree that there are many relatively inexpensive options to choose from, but do they really sound that much better than an old, well built receiver? Enough so to justify the cost? My receiver coast me $480 new in 1987 and I guess I feel that yes, they can now build amps that perform just as well for the same cost, which is really a much lower cost (2020 $480 dollars), but will today's $480 dollar amp sound that much better?

Having said that, Class-D amps really have me intrigued because of the small form factor and ease of positioning without much worry about heat.

Also seriously considering powered speakers as a replacement and further simplification.
I will say that there is a pretty significant difference in the quality of amplification at that price point. The difference *today* between a $500 amp and $5,000 is far closer than it was 30 years ago. You would be pleasantly surprised, I think. That being said, the envelope is REALLY being pushed in the realm of powered speakers. One of the forum sponsors is Meadowlark Audio. They are doing just mind-blowing things with fairly small speakers, that would have been utterly impossible 30 years ago. The laws of physics are the same, but so many physical limitations can be overcome by using on-board amplifiers with DSP.

But even if you wanted to incrementally build your system up, spending $500 on a *Yamaha AX-S701 or S801 (if you can find one used or demo) will elevate your current speakers far above the level they currently perform at.

* Just one example of a great value integrated amp, that has a lot of versatile features.
 
this is a very good place to start with class D: Volt+ D (Double) 2x60W
uses the new Texas Instruments TPA3xxx family of chips. pretty sure it is much better than your yamaha, if it provides enough power for your speakers of choice. super detailed, very quiet. for the $ just can't recommend it highly enough.
type of music you listen to, volume, size of room?
allo also makes a great raspberry pi based streamer: DigiOne Player SPDIF Out

Interesting. I do like the price. Like I said, Class-D amps really have me intrigued because of their small form factor and low heat generation. Coming up with new technology that is more efficient, while presumably competitive in performance gets my nerdy engineer juices flowing.
 
I'll comment on:

"Is there any reason why I should replace a perfectly functioning 30-year-old receiver with a new integrated amplifier?"

Your old receiver may sound nice - heck - I have a really nice Pioneer SX650 (almost 50 years old) and at first I thought wow this sounds great. then one day on my main system I lost a tube and didn't have a replacement - so sub'ed in the SX650. At first I was like - wow this system sounds absolutely awesome - the emperor has no clothes. Then after a bit of listening - it became absolutely clear - I had lost my 3D sound stage - it was very flat sounding and absolutely noticeable after I spent some time with it - what a relief (my main system is good after all.)

Reason for this? My old SX650 is simply old and needs a complete rebuild - new caps etc.

So I'd take new over old any day - unless Old has been rebuilt by an expert. So replace or don't replace - that is up to you.
 
I'll comment on:

"Is there any reason why I should replace a perfectly functioning 30-year-old receiver with a new integrated amplifier?"

Your old receiver may sound nice - heck - I have a really nice Pioneer SX650 (almost 50 years old) and at first I thought wow this sounds great. then one day on my main system I lost a tube and didn't have a replacement - so sub'ed in the SX650. At first I was like - wow this system sounds absolutely awesome - the emperor has no clothes. Then after a bit of listening - it became absolutely clear - I had lost my 3D sound stage - it was very flat sounding and absolutely noticeable after I spent some time with it - what a relief (my main system is good after all.)

Reason for this? My old SX650 is simply old and needs a complete rebuild - new caps etc.

So I'd take new over old any day - unless Old has been rebuilt by an expert. So replace or don't replace - that is up to you.

Hey ChrisO,

Yeah the final decision on replace/don't replace is mine but I appreciate your thoughts (and everyone else's) on it.
I have considered that my receiver may not be operating optimally any longer. I found a place relatively close to me that will check it against the specifications and repair as necessary, but I am somewhat reluctant to spend the money. I'm fighting with myself over the best, and the most economical, course of action. My hesitation is mostly because of my nostalgic feelings I have for an amplifier I purchased as a young man. It's probably in my best interest just to let it go and start looking at new. One thing that has me leaning towards new is size. My system now resides on a credenza, and my old receiver is fairly large. A nice, efficient, Class-D amplifier may be in my future.
 

Andyman

Junior Member
Hi Joe!
I see you are local to me in Macomb, I'm in Warren, and would suggest that once this Covid gets under control you should come to some of our SMAC meets here and audition what others are listening to.

FWIW, I'm firmly in the camp of the "Only you know what sounds good to you" camp, and one man's night and day is another's "meh". The beauty of SMAC is that you can audition a LOT of gear from all sorts of POVs and much DIY stuff to see if it's right for you. Often folks bring new pieces they have built/acquired to meets and we can roll them in and out to evaluate them. Systems run the gamut from modest to glorious and the members have a huge amount of knowledge between them. Many of them are members here too and will vouch for this.

And yes, there is beer...:D

Welcome!!
Andy
 
Hi Joe!
I see you are local to me in Macomb, I'm in Warren, and would suggest that once this Covid gets under control you should come to some of our SMAC meets here and audition what others are listening to.

FWIW, I'm firmly in the camp of the "Only you know what sounds good to you" camp, and one man's night and day is another's "meh". The beauty of SMAC is that you can audition a LOT of gear from all sorts of POVs and much DIY stuff to see if it's right for you. Often folks bring new pieces they have built/acquired to meets and we can roll them in and out to evaluate them. Systems run the gamut from modest to glorious and the members have a huge amount of knowledge between them. Many of them are members here too and will vouch for this.

And yes, there is beer...:D

Welcome!!
Andy

Hey Andy, thanks. I grew up in Warren and graduated from Warren High School. I definitely am in the modest category, and I recently purchased a set of SVS Prime Wireless speakers for my Covid work-from-home office/desk. But that leaves me with a 1987 Vintage Yamaha receiver I bought new that I will be looking possibly for some vintage speakers to go with it. I have also considered DIY as a possible way to maximize my modest budget. Sounds like one of your meetings would be a good place to gain some insight.
 

prime minister

Site Owner
Staff member
Hi Joe!
I see you are local to me in Macomb, I'm in Warren, and would suggest that once this Covid gets under control you should come to some of our SMAC meets here and audition what others are listening to.

FWIW, I'm firmly in the camp of the "Only you know what sounds good to you" camp, and one man's night and day is another's "meh". The beauty of SMAC is that you can audition a LOT of gear from all sorts of POVs and much DIY stuff to see if it's right for you. Often folks bring new pieces they have built/acquired to meets and we can roll them in and out to evaluate them. Systems run the gamut from modest to glorious and the members have a huge amount of knowledge between them. Many of them are members here too and will vouch for this.

And yes, there is beer...:D

Welcome!!
Andy
Hey!
Is SMAC advertising allowed here? :)
 
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