Over the last several years I’ve substantially upgraded my entire setup to:
• Auralic Altair (my first streamer - streaming has been a complete revelation, reignited my love for music and, ultimately, has led to this post!)
• Naim Nait XS2 (from Nait 5 - significant improvement)
• Quad Z-3 speakers (from Tannoy Precision 6.2 - huge improvement)
(Note: Not a huge room, the Quads are not bass heavy so don’t overpower the space, but I’ve no essential need for floor standers, and indeed might benefit from stand mounts, although I’ve never auditioned any high end models - I’m afraid I fell for the ‘stand mounts are a downgrade’ mental trap.)
My question is simply: What next to upgrade?
In fact it’s not an entirely simple question because I’m looking to get something that will last - with a view to then bringing the other components up to that same level over the next several years into my final setup (barring a lottery win!). That’s the tricky part, I feel, not getting something that’s going to be too ambitious or crazily, pointlessly out of balance, but being a bit ambitious for the long haul.
Which is basically saying I don’t want a gentle, incremental increase because I no longer intend to continually upgrade the components in rotation.
All of these were bought ex-demo, so excellent budget wise, and I remain very receptive to ex-demo/used or older models, but happy to buy new if it’s worth it.
This setup looks really pretty balanced to me, at least on paper, with possibly just the Quads slightly more thirsty for better stable mates - although the XS2 punches above it’s price, I suspect.
Budget wise… I’m honestly not sure. That’s part of the problem, really - where and how much would be needed to give a meaningful uplift in sound quality (yes, I know: ‘meaningful’???). That said, I suppose I have something around £3-4k in mind, but… We’re all hifi fans here, so…
So… what order would you upgrade things? And what would you recommend as a target level to aim for? All very hypothetical, I know, but… that’s why we like this hobby, isn’t it?
The most obvious candidate to me is the Auralic - it’s slightly dated now, and I assume streaming technology improves/cheapens quicker than other components, so bigger advances and bang-for-buck in modern streaming boxes? But I’ve no idea what’s out there, unlike other components where I’ve a more intuitive sense of what’s around. And unlike other components I don’t have an intuitive sense of where the price breakpoints are for streamers, nor how separate transports/DACs measure up.
Where next for amplification? XS3? Supernait 2? Bite the bullet and go NAP+NAC (plenty of second hand)? Power cap for the XS2?
The speakers least eligible, I feel, both because they’re the most recent upgrade and also because they slightly leapfrogged the others spend-wise. They’re the things I feel most comfortable living with, and may even be keepers, but that’s the kind of thing I’d like your input on.
Cabling wise I’m reasonable - NAC A5 speaker cables and the original Naim Din interconnects that came with my first Nait 5 (I think olive??). These are things I may incrementally improve over time, but no desperate rush, to my mind.
No special power leads, and I confess I’m uneasy/skeptical of the return on these - although I’ve no desire to spark a debate on specifically that front. I’ve read of so many folk saying they heard an audible difference that I believe it’s true, but I’ve simply never auditioned different power cabling myself, so I don’t feel urgency around them.
Your wisdom, knowledge and reflections very welcome!
(Oh, and actually my immediate next step, in fact, is likely to be some room treatment. I realised I have now accumulated thousands of pounds’ worth of kit so it seems foolish not to invest some effort and (comparatively) lesser spend here. Separate post on that to follow, possibly.)
Many thanks in advance