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Help Requested for Upgrade Path (Read 1220 times)
jdog
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Help Requested for Upgrade Path
08/12/17 at 21:39:16
 
Over the next year I have decided to commit to a full upgrade to the best mid-fi I can afford, starting with a just-ordered SE84UFO to replace my 1980's NAD 3220 PE.  The rest of my current kit:  Hagerman Bugle2 phono preamp, Klipsch Forte speakers (mint condition 80's speakers with 96 db sensitivity) and two turntables:  ProJect Debut Carbon DC with Ortofon 2M Red and B&O TX2 with Soundsmith SMMC3 cartridge.

Aside from the turntable I intend to upgrade phono preamp to a csp3, maybe add a CSP3 preamp if there is enough cash left, and some full-range speakers (like DNA or Zu Omens) if there is plenty of cash left.

With that target in mind, I am inclined to see what I can get on EBay or trade-in for the B&O and the ProJect, and this is where I would appreciate advice:  given that projected setup, how nice a turntable would still make a sound difference?

VPI and Rega are my top candidates right now, with the Classic 1 or Scout from VPI and the RP8 from Rega, hopefully in pre-owned form so I can save a little cash.  Would I notice the diff with these turntables, and if so would it get even better with an MC cartridge?  I want to enjoy hearing music as it was recorded, without having to spend five figures on each component of my system, and I don't want to waste money on enhancements that don't make a difference.

Many thanks for any thoughts you want to share.
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Archie
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Re: Help Requested for Upgrade Path
Reply #1 - 08/13/17 at 00:14:58
 
Absolutely take a serious look at Technics new offerings in their 1200G ($4K) and 1200GR (<$2K).  I use a KAB modified 1200 MK2 and have been extremely happy with the performance using high end Ortofon MC carts (Kontrapunkt b, Cadenza Blue, Jubilee).  The 1200Gs have been highly reviewed while the 1200GRs are just coming on line.
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« Last Edit: 08/13/17 at 01:04:38 by Archie »  
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jdog
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Re: Help Requested for Upgrade Path
Reply #2 - 08/16/17 at 04:11:53
 
Thanks for the suggestion - I saw a pretty cool record cleaner by KAB, but didn't realize they worked on the old Technics turntables too.  $4K plus an MC cartridge may be more than I can afford, but I will do some searching for a used one I can have them modify.  Are MC carts the only way to get the most out of a zen amplifier?
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Martindfletcher
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Re: Help Requested for Upgrade Path
Reply #3 - 08/16/17 at 04:51:34
 
I would research the denon 103 and 301 series MC cartridges,  great value per dollar, the series's you need will vary with tone arm compliance.
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Archie
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Re: Help Requested for Upgrade Path
Reply #4 - 08/16/17 at 16:27:01
 
If you can find a decent used Technics MK2, Kevin at KAB can turn it into a giant killer.  I bought mine new from him in 2007 when Technics still made them.  Technics' new offerings are more expensive.  The 1200GR can be had for around $1600, I think.  That's likely what you'd spend to have KAB modify a MK2, including the TT.  Give Kevin a call or email before doing anything.  He'll give you quite an education!

I am committed to the MC cart now that I've made the investment but MM carts have some advantages and are much less money overall (no SUT and replaceable stylus).
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Acetone
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Re: Help Requested for Upgrade Path
Reply #5 - 08/16/17 at 23:09:20
 
Hey jdog,  I use an ortofon 2m black and it is awesome. Plus, no need for a SUT. Just run it right into the ZP3.
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jdog
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Re: Help Requested for Upgrade Path
Reply #6 - 08/22/17 at 18:48:39
 
Many thanks for the suggestions, a lot of decisions await for sure.  I do like the reviews of the KAB-modded Technics tables and the price seems reasonable for that kind of sound assuming I can get a Mk2 or similar for $500, which seems possible.

I am trying to upgrade items one at a time so I can study the impact of each improvement, so first step is replacing capacitors in my speaker crossovers.  I have the kit from Bob Crites for crossovers and Titanium diaphragms for the tweeters, so that will be the first test.

I have been thinking hard about the turntable situation, and I am considering bringing my Bang & Olufsen TX2 back into the mix if I can replace the phono cables with something better.  With that in mind I am looking at the Soundsmith SMMC1 cartridge, which is described as really good for the price and could be used in a normal tonearm as well with their adaptor.  Has anyone tried this or another Soundsmith cartridge?  I am thinking I could go a couple years with the B&O while saving for a higher-end turntable, like the modded Technics or even a new sl-1200 GR, with MC or top-end MM cartridge like the OM2 Black, which I have considered for my ProJect turntable (which I don't feel inclined to keep since it doesn't support meaningful upgrades, especiallly without VTA).

I mistyped my original post - I meant to say upgrade path was se84ufo first (ordered), then the zp3 phono preamp and possibly the csp3 preamp if I feel I need more volume.  Can anyone provide insight on the improvement when adding the csp3 to a zp3 and se84ufo combo?

I am trying hard not to get obsessed with things like capacitance of cables, but it is a challenge!
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jdog
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Re: Help Requested for Upgrade Path
Reply #7 - 09/04/17 at 00:20:14
 
Quick update on progress:  I have replaced the tweeter diaphragms in my Klipsch Quartet speakers with the titanium ones from Bob Crites, and that does make a nice difference in the higher frequencies - more clarity for sure, but not too harsh.  I am still looking for time to replace the caps in the crossovers (got replacement caps from Bob Crites too).  I am looking forward to hearing the difference after that change.

In the meantime I also pulled the trigger on a nicer cartridge - a Soundsmith SMMC1, one of their replacement cartridges for Bang & Olufsen turntables.  They also sell them with an adapter for standard mount tonearms, which I bought since I am not convinced I will stick with my TX2 turntable for the long run.  I have to say, though, that this cartridge was amazing the first time I played it.  I was listening to a Ray Charles/Milt Jackson album and immediately could sense the snare drum further in the background than the ride cymbal, something I definitely did not sense with my ProJect Debut Carbon and OM2 Red.

Soundsmith seems like a very similar company to Decware, with a leader who is a disciple for the ultimate listening experience combined with extensive technical expertise.  I purchased an SMMC3 a few years ago for a B&O RX2, and it is really good for the price as well.

I will update after the crossover cap replacement.  If you are a fan of jazz with a soul flavor, I strongly recommend the "Soul Brothers" album from Ray Charles and Milt Jackson.  Ray was a pretty amazing sax player as well as piano player.
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Lon
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Re: Help Requested for Upgrade Path
Reply #8 - 09/04/17 at 02:11:23
 
"Soul Meeting" is a great one too, a sister album to "Soul Brothers!"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soul_Meeting
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jdog
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Re: Help Requested for Upgrade Path
Reply #9 - 09/13/17 at 23:04:02
 
Great to know they had another album, thanks for letting me know!  I'm not sure how the albums were recorded but I am betting it was a studio session.  I enjoy searching for albums that were recorded with everyone in the room at once, as they tend to bring out the best in a good stereo system.

Since last post I was able to replace the capacitors in the crossovers of my Klipsch Quartets and I definitely notice a difference.  I think I am getting some more separation in the instruments/voices and a general sense of more clarity.  I also did some maintenance work on my B&O turntable and I am less hopeful that it will work.  The SMMC1 cartridge sounds pretty amazing, but I think I am losing something from the turntable, between setup of the tonearm (pretty funky because it is tangential) and quality of the phono cable and RCA connectors.  I am considering sending it in for repairs, but if the cost estimate is $500 or more I will pass and pursue a nicer turntable.  Latest candidates:  Rega Planar 3 or Planar 6, used VPI Scout or used Michell Tecnodec.  Any opinions on these options, especially in the context of an SE84UFO amplifier, would be greatly appreciated.
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jdog
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Re: Help Requested for Upgrade Path
Reply #10 - 09/14/17 at 01:01:58
 
After rereading prior posts and doing some more research I feel a need to put a modded SL-1200 back in the mix.  It seems that a used SL-1200 can be had for about $500 and another $750 with KAB Associates will set it up to compete with many other turntables I am considering.  So for $1250 I could get a Scout Jr., very lightly used.  Anyone have opinions on a Scout Jr. versus a KAB-modded SL-1200?
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Archie
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Re: Help Requested for Upgrade Path
Reply #11 - 09/14/17 at 01:22:14
 
Funny you should ask!  In 2007 I had a Scout on order when I stumbled across KAB.  After talking with Kevin, I cancelled the Scout and bought a fully tricked out 1200 MK2 and never looked back.  You might want to check out the new 1200 GRs too.  If you have an itch to spend more and really get something special, look into the 1200G.  Lot's of fans of all types of 1200s over at the Steve Hoffman Forum.

BTW, I am running an Ortofon Jubilee MC cart on my 1200 and it does it justice.  The Jubilee is the predecessor to the Cadenza Black which some run on their 1200 Gs.

Edit:  I didn't realize that I'd posted above in this thread.  Obviously, I don't pass up a chance to plug the 1200 and KAB.   Cheesy
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« Last Edit: 09/14/17 at 01:25:21 by Archie »  
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jdog
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Re: Help Requested for Upgrade Path
Reply #12 - 01/08/18 at 20:30:44
 
Quick update on the quest for medium-budget vinyl heaven:  the audiophile budget has gone dry for the moment (sent a kid off to college), but not before I was able to acquire a new cartridge to go with my SE84UFO.  But first the Zen amp - it is truly remarkable how much sound can be generated from 2 watts.  The sound it produces can best be described as "accurate" - the sound is amplified without alteration, and that is as high a complement as I can pay to an amplifier.

I have some albums that were clearly not mastered or recorded well, and it is clear when listening now.  Also, I can change out cartridges, for example, and the distinction between my OM2 Red and my Soundsmith SMMC1 is massive.  I can now see that testing a bunch of equipment before having the right amp is a bad idea - glad I took the plunge now on the Zen!

I mentioned the cartridge in an earlier post - suffice it to say that paired with the Zen amp the music is better than I have ever heard from my vinyl, and the turntable and phono preamp are not even close to audiophile quality.

I am planning to upgrade the preamp next, and the ZP3 is my first choice if I can afford it.  I am definitely sold on Decware products at this point.  The final step will be the turntable, and my short list currently includes a KAB-modded Technics table or a GEM Dandy Polytable - I have to say I am biased toward smaller companies led by engineers who love to work with sound.  I have heard great things about KAB from Archie (thanks!), but I don't know as much about the GEM Dandy.  Anybody have one they are playing through an SE84UFO?

As always, many thanks for responses/insights.
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hdrider
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Re: Help Requested for Upgrade Path
Reply #13 - 01/13/18 at 17:04:41
 
Jdog- My ZP3 is my favorite Decware piece of gear, as a phono stage it just walks all over everything else I have owned (ARC SP-11, NYAL, Krell) and I have never looked back on these Decware products. Keep us posted on your progress, it's a great read. Happy listening, Chris.
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Lon
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Re: Help Requested for Upgrade Path
Reply #14 - 01/13/18 at 18:27:42
 
I love the ZP3 as well. Even though I've moved to a digital only system again for a while I cherish the ZP3, it brings records to life.
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Acetone
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Re: Help Requested for Upgrade Path
Reply #15 - 01/14/18 at 16:33:57
 
The ZP3 has brought vinyl to the best I've ever heard. As I've upgraded cables, tubes etc.. ZP3 has kept up and continued to improve.
If you have to save to get one do it. Meanwhile, Keep an eye on the classifieds, they do come up from time to time and are worth the wait.
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SuperZen-CKC, ZP3, Zstage, ZRock2, DM947-Monoliths, VPI-Traveler-2M black. Philips CDR-880. Decware/Audio Envy/RAC-PC's & IC's, Mapleshade Dbl Helix+ Spkr wire-jumpers, Blue Circle PLC FX2 X0e. Herbies tube dampers, tenderfoots, GIK & PI Audio, DIY room treatments
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