Upgrade Epiphanies

I was thinking perhaps a thread on your best gear upgrade and how it made the sound better would be helpful, especially to those who don’t have experience of the really top end stuff. I think it would be helpful to have articulate descriptions of the sound after whatever upgrade really did it for you. Simply put, say what your gear was before an upgrade, what the upgrade was, and how it improved the sound and enhanced the performance of the recording.

Here is my attempt

This time last year I had DAC-V1, NAP 100 and KEF LS50 speakers. Now I have 272, 250 and Dynaudio Special 40s, and a decimated bank account. I got the 272 and the 250 last year, but the epiphany was when I got the speakers last week. Improvements with the Naim boxes were OK, but the addition of the Dynaudio speakers is the biggest upgrade I have ever had. Now there is a palpable presence of three-dimensional focused sound in the room with real drive and scale, and there is a real sense of the singer and the band in the room as well. Before the speakers, the upgrades to the Naim boxes were more "technical" - more detail, more bass etc. I am certain the Naim boxes have made a real contribution, but I think they were being held back by the old speakers - the new speakers have unlocked the real potential of the pre and power amp. Overall I think this is an upgrade in terms of sound realism as well as drive, scale, presence, sound field space, articulation, detail and refinement.

A case in point - I was listening to Kate Bush the other day - the second side of Hounds of Love (the new 2018 master), and the realism, rhythm and drive in the instruments was obvious. It was also like having Kate Bush in the room singing for me and giving the performance of a lifetime. The first time I heard this I was astonished. Another case in point - I like the John Barry soundtrack to the film The Lion in Winter. The opening track of this is a menacing choral piece, which I have heard many times, but through this gear I got a real sense of desperation in the choir, which adds to the menace, as well as all the realism I have mentioned before.

I don’t know anyone who likes audio, and I don’t go to shows or whatever so the best gear I have ever heard is the stuff I have, and therefore I have no experience of the real top end gear. Overall I feel I have glimpsed what all this upgrade lark is about and in total it only cost me 10 grand!


Suspect there will be many such epiphanies if the archived forum is anything to go by. In terms of my hifi journey to date, having started with the 172XS into a Yamaha amp and KEF eggs, I made the jump to the 200DR and Focal 906 speakers I currently have about 3 years ago which scratched the itch for some time, however an opportunity to acquire a 272 could not be turned down and lo, the quality did improve. But, slippery slope having been commenced upon, the XPSDR was seen and it was good. It truly opened up the sound of my system in a way that I had not imagined and certainly made me realise that awesome sound could be attained.

As you have probably guessed, nirvana has not been reached. Have been made a nice offer to upgrade to 250DR and listened to this as well as the 200DR with the Contour 20 earlier today and definitely swapping the amp. Not sure yet what speakers will trigger the next epiphany - plan is to try System 40, maybe SCM11 and/or 19 and see if they tick the boxes or whether we look further. With the Acoustica spring show in early April I would be surprised if thus itch does not get scratched soon.

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