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Old 02-10-2010   #13
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 44
Default Re: best system for senior classical music listener

Originally Posted by Nastarana View Post
I am now retired and would like to enjoy my classical CD and LP collection. I have spent a lifetime listening on inferior equipment.

I know almost nothing about the new components that are now in the market. I can spend up to about $5-6000 for all components. I would like to be able to listen to CDs and LPs on equipment which is not too demanding to use, offers the best possible sound quality for the budget and is likely to last a long time. I do not want to have to replace components anytime soon.

Sound quality is the priority for classical music. Even someone with an average ear for music, like me, can tell the difference between good, indifferent and excellent sound quality.

I am also considering buying the new Cowon S9 MP3 player. I have never owned an MP3.

My system will need to play CDs, LPs, and let me hook up the MP3 player with the best sound possible for the budget. I don't think I need surround sound (do I?). I don't plan to convert CDs to audio files. Hooking up a TV or other video or DVD player is not a priority.

Whiat kinds of components do I need, and what are the best in my price range?

I would be most grateful for, and will diligently research, all suggestions.
You will get terrible reproduction from an mp3 player and I wouldn't even consider it. You need an array of speakers so that all instruments can be recognized and a good subwoofer. I recommend Infinity's but I am prejudiced. I bought all my infinity's before they made the big change to a different type of speaker, but they have always put out quality equipment. I have 12 speaker system and you can hear every instrument just as if they were right in my room and completely realistic. You have to be careful with classical recordings because many were recorded quite poorly and nothing will make them better. You can only give out as good as you get. Many of my guests are shocked at how you can hear everything and nothing is lost in the reproduction. The old way, the subwoofers overpowered the other sound being put out. Now you can balance them better so that you can hear everything realistically. My favorite is still the Nutcracker just because it appeals to my heart and I have a really good recording of it. You will be surprised how bad a bad recording sounds on good equipment. One of my favorite newer groups is the Temptations and I have yet to find a good recording of them. But with today's technology, Many artists sound like they are right in the room with you. I highly recommend Chris Spheeris of New Age genre.
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Old 02-10-2010   #14
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Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Salt Lake City
Posts: 2
Default Re: best system for senior classical music listener

Originally Posted by Nastarana View Post
GrtGrgx, I appreciate the comment. I hope I woll be able to tell by trying before buying whether my hearing loss, of which I am very much aware, having worked around loud machinery for many years, will prevent me from discriminating between better and best.

I don't really think of audio equipment as toys. There is surely a happy medium somewhere between a Walmart set for c$2-300, and the super high end components which are priced in the 5 and 6 figures.

Chas, thank you for the referral.
No problem Nastarana
Email me off record when you have a minute at

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Old 02-12-2010   #15
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Minnesota
Posts: 25
Default Re: best system for senior classical music listener


I have a couple of friends, one with mild hearing loss and one with fairly severe (I can't remeber the exact freq. cut off, but it is pretty bad). Even with their hearing loss they are still able to recognize many things such as spacial cues, imaging, cabinet resonances, digital glare, bass response, etc) To me all of those are important to maximize the enjoyment of your music collection. I bring this up because although you may not hear some of the things going on in a audio system, I think you will be surpised at the number of things that you will be able to discern.

Here would be my suggestion for a system that would get you into the "high end" quality with out breaking the bank. I was at Rocky Mountain this year and heard a ton of equipment.

The prices listed are new retail.
LSA Group LS2 towers- around $2500 (very tought to find something that can beat these in this price range)
Belles 22A Vacuum Tube Preamp- $2500 (very hard to beat at this price point)
Belles Solist 5 Amp -$1100- (There are probably 1-2 others in this price range that would work as well)
Arcam CD 17 $999- (there are probably a few other players out there at this price point as well)

The above would give you as system that would be very enjoyable and compete or beat systems that cost many times more.

I would also highly consider something like a SONOS into a high end DAC vs a CD Player. I'm using an eXemplar tube DAC with a SONOS. I just got it about a month ago and it is the coolest thing that I have ever owned. 1. You have all of your CDs at your finger tips, but it also plays any radio station in the US, maybe the world. It also comes with Rhapsody which I have just started playing with. You can search any CD in the Rhapsody data base and immediately begin to play it. Yesterday I went through the whole Bela Fleck collection as well as Melody Gardot's two CDs. This service allows you to "prelisten" to a CD before you actually go out and buy it. Rhapsody is MP3 quality so it wouldn't be ideal for critical listening, but it is great for back ground music. It even has 2-3 stations that play classical music 24/7.

I didn't mention a table. I sold my sota saphire about 5 years ago, so I'm not so current on analog. My freind says the entry level Khuzma is probably the best out there in that price range. I think it is about $3,200 with arm and cartridge? but not sure.
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Old 02-12-2010   #16
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Ca USA
Posts: 10
Default Re: best system for senior classical music listener

flamonio, I take your point about the sound quality of MP3. My daughter has an ipod, tinniest sound I ever heard.

The one I was considering, Cowon s9 is supposed to have excellent sound without extra features. It is $360 about and then you need head phones, charger, case etc. etc., and probably one of those streaming things as well.

I initially was considering MP3 because sites which sell classical CDs have finally been offering downloads and the Cowon supports Flac. The downloads cost less than CDs, even before shipping charges are added. I then realized that I could simply download and burn (is that the right word?) the download to a CD. So, I think I had rather spend the budget on good CD equipment.
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Old 02-12-2010   #17
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Ca USA
Posts: 10
Default Re: best system for senior classical music listener

graniterocks, the system you recommend takes me about $1000 over budget, but if moving turns out to cost less than I anticipate, it may fall into my price range. How is the longevity of those components? Do the companies have good records for longevity? I do not want to repurchase, and I am willing to pay more up front to get something which, after set up and after I have learned how to use it, I can simply turn on for at least the next decade.

I am heartened by your comments re hearing loss. Concert and audiencees tend to be almost wall to wall seniors, and they seem to get great enjoyment from attendance. Trust me, after age 55 or thereabouts, most of us have gotten over going out "to be seen". We leave that to the young up and coming professionals.
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Old 02-12-2010   #18
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Minnesota
Posts: 25
Default Re: best system for senior classical music listener

SONOS vs Cowon s9

For $350 you can get a Sonos ZP-90 it steams wav - MP3, flac, APE, applelosses, etc etc. If you happen to have an iTouch or iPHone you don't need the $350 touch screen remote.

Basically the SONOS is a user interface with the hard drives on your computer and the music sources on the internet.


Good point to bring up reliability.

Dave Belles has been around for many years and appears to be in good health, so I think you would be ok there. He has an excellent reputation.

LSA Group- They are kind of an upstart, but the people behind the company have been around a long time. The speakers are designed by John Tucker he has his hands in several innovative designs of speakers, amplifiers, preamps and DACs--Some risk because the company is new, but they are selling a lot of speakers right now and the people behind them are good and young enough to be around awhile.

Arcam- they have been around a long time and have had a long track record of producing very good CD players.-- Safe bet

If LSA seems to much of a risk, I also thought about the Paradigm Studio 100s for you, they are $3000 a pair. The LSA is a more refined speaker than the Paradigm and actually costs less. The advantage with Paradigm is that they have been one of the top rated speakers for 19 years in a row. Great track record and still a great speaker. The LSAs are better in terms of detail, speed and imaging, the Paradigms are a little more efficient so they would be easier to drive. If you purchased a lesser preamp then the Belles, then the Paradigms would definately be in play. For better preamps, the LSAs would better resolve the imaging capablities of the 22A and would be worth the small risk when paired with a quality preamp. If given a choice to spend more money on a preamp, amp or digital source I would probably go preamp first, then source, then amp.

There are many other speakers out there, but at the price points we are talking it is hard to beat the Paradigm or LSAs.


Last edited by graniterocks; 02-12-2010 at 01:18 PM.. Reason: More info
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