Apologies if I have offended anyone by suggesting that their cables or PSUs are not good (snake oil products). My learning this week is that in my particular case the amp and speaker combination were not up to the minimum standard necessary to benefit from them. This could be the reason why the gap between the Naim box and my gear appeared to be close. Perhaps it was my dealer's intention to recommend more 'suitable' £££ amp and speakers to address this but didn't want to scare me off with another huge bill ? I have to confess that I was highly influenced by my dealer, online reviews and magazines when making my purchases. I have been standing in the corner with my dunce cap on since posting this thread
I am immensely grateful for the useful responses to my post (cry for help). The upgrade journey has been going on for the past 18 months with the dealer suggesting add-ons whenever I complained about any shortcoming. I had already informed the dealer that I was looking for a pre-retirement end-game system - no more upgrades, lifting heavy boxes or bending over fiddling around with cables. I'm not saying that I preferred the Naim sound to the Chord rather that the huge price difference didn't seem justified in my case (my friend is delighted with the benchmarking). The MScaler wasn't intended as a stepping stone towards the Dave but rather a means of 'improving' the sound of my 16bit FLAC library - as already mentioned, quality of music production means many tracks will continue to sound flat even after upsampling so I would have been better off buying 24bit Hi-res versions of the same tracks instead. I did demo Chord amps (TToby and SPM-1050) to try and stay with the same brand but the warmth and mid-range of the McIntosh was instantly noticeable. As for speaker choice, I did demo B&W 804 D3 with the McIntosh which sounded really good in the demo room but my listening space at home is only 13ft x 13ft and I was concerned about potential boominess so didn't try them at home. At home, each speaker is 9ft away from my listening position. My relatively small listening room meant I didn't consider floorstanders and monobloc amps. The Harbeths were recommended and I was initially very satisfied but after a few months I found them to be a little bit bass light with certain genres and in particular watching DVDs and the dealer suggested connecting a subwoofer to the McIntosh to address this ! As for dealer demos - I was usually loaned kit over a weekend or during the weekdays - not the several weeks needed to fully bed in. So what am I going to do now ? Well, I'm going to simplify my setup and listen to that for the next 4-6 weeks: Auralic Streamer > Hugo TT2 > McIntosh Amp > Speakers This will allow me to gauge how much the extra bits and pieces were actually adding to the sonic picture. Btw, I did discuss the prospect of changing some of my kit with the dealer but I was dismayed by the suggested part-exchange valuations. After reading the responses, I am keen to replace the Harbeths...I won't go back to the dealer (he was suggesting IsoAcoustic Isolation last time we spoke) !
I listened to my friend's name with the same tracks as the evening before (approx 2hrs). I'm not saying the Naim sounded 'better' than the Chord gear, rather that it wasn't that far behind given it's price point. I felt cheated that the performance is not commensurate with the cost. It doesn't sound bright or lethargic over time but I am now conscious that I have spent quite a lot on upgrades that have only raised it marginally above a £2400 Naim box !
Thank you for your responses. I didn't expect to end up with all this kit. I originally bought just the DAC to use with my Macbook and then it all started from there with the dealer suggesting extra bits afterwards (try this, try that, reduce RF noise etc). I agree it is most likely a combination of diminishing returns and foolishness on my part "Saw-you-coming". If I knew back then that I needed a streamer/DAC then I would have auditioned such units rather than plain DACs. I think my amp and speakers are reasonanble: McIntosh MA252 and Harbeth P3ESRs ???
I have upgraded to the following front-end setup (~£11,000) following guidance from dealers and forums: Auralic Aries G1 Music Streamer > Audioquest Coffee USB > Chord MScaler > SBooster Ultra BOTW Linear PSU > Wave Stream Dual BNC > Chord Hugo TT2 DAC My friend brought his Naim ND5 XS2 all-in-one box (£2400) to try at my house and I was amazed by it's performance (no premium cables, no LPSU, no multiple boxes). I tried my usual Tidal test tracks and my setup did not seem to have a significant price/performance improvement ! I was gutted ! Where did I go wrong ?
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