For about three months now I have been researching on the web and speaking to store owners the notion of purchasing a simple system to listen to great music primarily by way of Qobuz.
I am utterly confused.
I’ve only had one stellar conversation with an experienced 40 year audiophile. This guy said I have been primarily talking to people who are evaluating the technology of speakers or amps or streamers. He said that few people are simply into music.
I’m more concerned with music and am thus confused by the myriad options, every one of which is ‘the best’ according to my research. Since notes are notes, and any symphony can play Elgar’s Nimrod, my ears go to the conductor whose symphony can play this piece with feeling and emotional strength. Say, Daniel Barenboim.
Pandemic issues lead to far fewer in-person listening options.
Option One: Naim Nova paired with Focal Kanta 2’s with or without a Rel subwoofer. Option Two: Dali Epicon 6’s With no sub paired with an Aesthetix Mimas integrated amp with an add-on DAC and an Aurender streamer (this guy insisted the DAC be with the amp not the streamer). Option Three: A David Belles integrated amp paired with ProAc speakers, again no sub, streamer to be decided. Option Four: Kanta No.3’s with no sub, lukewarm on the amp. Option Five: Kanta 2’a paired with an Anthem STR integrated amp, no sub, and a Lumin D2 streamer. Of course, all with highly expensive cables and interconnects. Three of these say I need a power conditioner, two said that’s mostly unnecessary.
I’m willing to put down $20K USD. Everyone says that’s enough to get a decent system. Everyone wants to be my best friend, everyone assures me I will have a happy face, and every single person has 30+ years of experience.
I have Uniti Nova and Kanta 2 myself - it is a superb combination. Add Naim NAC A5 speaker cable - ideally around 3m per channel - which is what the system was designed with; no need to worry about more esoteric options at this stage!
If your budget stretches, add a Naim Powerline mains cable - it’s a simple, instant upgrade.
And that’s it: simple, engaging system all ready for you to enjoy Qobuz with.
Please don’t get confused and frustrated over this. Music should be a relaxing and rewarding experience and this will only happen when your system sounds how you would like it to, and perhaps when listening with the knowledge that it was the best available for your budget. However, unfortunately, this will mean asking the dealers (or whoever it was saying they have the best system for you) to put their money where their mouth is and demonstrate the recommended system to you. Trust your ears - not theirs.
Importantly, once you have heard a few options, get the system you like home and in your room for a home trial before committing… this shouldn’t be a problem for you. Most UK dealers offer this option and I’m pretty sure I’ve read of US dealers doing the same.
Keep it simple… hear for yourself, try the options available and go with what you enjoy best. It’s not an insignificant amount of money you wish to spend so, this way you can be confident you have the right system for you. Oh, and good luck!
Tell these lovely people to be quiet and let the systems speak for themselves. Stream some music that is meaningful to you from Qobuz and let your ears and heart make the decision. And don’t rush it. Once you’ve got a system you can think about a power conditioner if still interested.
If you want a simple system some options you are listing are ruled out by definition.
I would limit your electronics to 2 devices (integrated amp and streaming DAC) if you want to have some flexibility further down the road. Otherwise a Nova or something similar may be just what you need.
You should also choose your speakers first, as your room will be the limiting factor for their size.
While the addition of a sub may be a good idea (i just added one) it is not trivial at all to integrate it in your system correctly. If you are not into hi-fi and technical gear i would suggest that you find a dealer who is willing to install the whole set-up properly. This is by far the most important factor to consider, more than any choice of electronics.
Also, it is worth asking yourself how important the design is to you. If something does not look right i would avoid it, as for me it is part of the whole experience. Do you have a dedicated listening room? Are you willing to use acoustic treatement? These are the questions you should ask yourself, and the answers should come more easily. A good dealer should be able to help you make the right choices.
Perhaps the size of speaker but not the make/model - they don’t produce a sound on their own. And then there’s how whatever system they’re in interacts with the room. You have to hear that all together….
My goal was to keep it simple. A speaker you don’t like in your room won’t get better no matter how good or expensive the amplification or source. However, a speaker that you like, properly set up in your room, driven by decent electronics and up to spec will already sound great, and may of course be improved upon further with the electronics behind it.
I am also not sure that coming to this forum for advice will be of much help, as there will be many different opinions on how to assemble a system (and how the money is best spent along the differents components).
Factor in listening room, size/shape and material mix including layout and furnishings.
I’d agree on others comments to keep things simple. If you have a decent size room a larger speaker may be more suitable. I’ve now got Kanta 1’s after a long stretch with PMC’s. The room is around 3.5m x 3.5m and those are ample in that size room. Walls are brick, floor is concrete and carpetted. All these elements are worth considering as they form a part of the system and your listening enjoyment.
Room is multi-purposed living room. Carpeted. Bookshelves. Openings to hallway. 32x12. I have no way to have a listening chair and remain married. Wooden dining table, antique wooden buffet at one end, chairs near bay window at the other. Feel like I have good dealer support.
A Nova + Kanta 2’s + a sub is an elegant solution. I think I’m inclined in another direction, though, which has also ‘appeared’ today. PrimaLuna integrated amp (EVO 400) + Aurender A100 (DAC, MQA, 2 TB of internal storage, a 120 GB solid-state cache), Rel S/812, and Kanta 2’s. Decent cables and interconnects.
I love my Nova. Agree with Clare. You will want the Powerline. It’s fun to start without it though and add it later. Crazy, but the cord is a significant upgrade. And NAC A5 for sure. You will love it. I just have the Focal Chora 816 so with the Kanta 2 would be great. For myself, I really didn’t want to get into separates, with the Nova I have $1490 in cords. So, K.I.S.S. baby.
Great to have supportive dealers and a range of manufacturers to evaluate. I’d always encourage extended trial and ideally in your home. The Kanta 2 is a large and capable speaker, I expect it’ll do an admirable job without a sub, I’ve not known a system using them to need an additional sub.
I would say having now owned a pair of Kanta 1’s that their tweeter will either be something you like or find fatiguing, it will depend on the room as well. I’ve heard the pair I own in muliple locations and their presentation differed on each occasion. If your room is multipurpose they’re pretty big and heavy so bare that in mind in terms of layout and getting the best out of what you invest in, ideally avoid an expensive series of modifications to attempt to “correct” the room or try and make a big speaker work in an awkward space. It’s a significant investment however you approach it considering your budget and equipment interests, a good dealer will support you and allow you to take a little time to end up with what’s best for you and your budget.
I own the Aestheix Mimas. It is by far better than my Naim SN2 was. It’s also absolutely not an amp for a beginner. Of course it does have the option for an excellent Dac. But it’s a tube hybrid it runs hot and has to be handled right and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it.
I think the Nova is a good choice from what you’re saying. I’m not a big Focal fan . Focal do get a lot of push since it is now Focal-Naim. I would recommend ProAc’s very different from Focal. I recommend D20R’s or D30RS depending on room size. Good luck
And the Prima Luna… good luck lots of tubes to replace…
You mentioned at the top “Non Audiophile” yet some dealer is talking you into a complex system. I’m also in the US, New Jersey… I’m curious what dealers you’ve spoken with.
You also mentioned your room is 12’ x 32’ and no place to put a chair to listen from. Could you give us some idea of how you thought of setting up the system especially the speaker placement, that might be very helpful
Looking at a local dealer and his prices listed and came up with this:
Naim XPS DR power supply, Naim NDX 2, SuperNait 3 with a pair of Dynaudio Contour 20 Bookshelf Speakers Grey Oak Gloss (2020 model). Priced out at $22,061.00.
A fantastic system which I am sure a good customer with negotiating skills could work on an out the door price of $20K. Also talk about available refurbished or pre-owned gear with your dealer.
I had a XPS DR with NDX 2 into a SuperNait Integrated amp with ProAc speakers and it was fantastic.
I would recommend finding a Naim dealer and demo. In your profile you have listed a Nova with Focal Chora. The simplest thing would be to just swap out the speakers for a home demo. If that doesn’t work then explore the other options.
Nobody can respond for you in your case. For instance Aesthetics and Naim are very different. Proac and Focal sound very different too.
Then the sources as Aurender, Naim, Lumin give different presentations.
Only you can choose, by listening, the best system for your tastes and ears.
And don’t forget the room characteristics.