Confused by upgrade options...

Hi all,

I hope you might be able to offer some, let’s say, guidance. I’ll try to be thorough so as not to be too ambiguous in requirements.

I have got myself a little confused, unfortunately this is mostly self inflicted by budget requirements and buying second hand. Short Story is that is means it’s tricky to demo anything.

I have;

Rega Planar 3 (current model + neo psu) & TV into UQ2 to Focal Aria 906. 

This is in 4x5m living room. Thick carpet and lots of furniture and suspended wooden floorboards. The system resides in a bay window firing up the long length. One side is fireplace with alcoves either side, the other is a sofa. I cannot bring the speakers too far into the room, only approx 25cm from back wall and 20cm from side this is the angled wall of the bay so closer at the rear of the speaker. They are approx 2m apart and 3m to listening seat. 

I mainly listen to vinyl, iradio and stream Tidal/Spotify Premium. I have lots of music (mainly flac) sitting on an old hard drive doing nothing which would be nice to have access to (obviously a NAS but haven’t added yet).

With fairly well produced music this sounds pretty good. When I move to anything fast paced it seems to get a bit muddied and lacks dynamics on passages I know well. I do like a bit of rock and metal from time to time and it seems to struggle with the pace. Not sure if this is uq2 or speakers? I don’t listen very loud due to neighbours, usually my qute is at 35-40 and only if I know they are out to I push up to 45-50 on the volume.

I have approx £1500 to spend currently. The less the better really as anything saved will go towards further upgrades. I am thinking electronics first, then speakers. 

I listened to some ATC SCM 11 that were very good. Uq2 isn’t powerful enough for these. I also want to try some others including kudos, proac  and harbeth.

before this I want the electronics sorted. 

Options I think I have and am confused by which is a better route. 

1) Add Nap 200/200DR - Nap200 better financially but likely to need servicing so pushes price up to nearer DR. I probably won’t ever upgrade streamer section as too pricey so not sure if this is worth it. 

2) buy Superuniti and sell qute - Prob cheapest/quickest/easiest. Some descriptions of sound signature confuse me if this is the best option compared to above and below options  

3) sell qute for Nait Xs or xs2 and add auralic Aries mini and maybe chord mojo later. 

4) sell qute for supernait and auralic Aries mini and maybe mojo later

5) add non-naim power amp. Maybe Exposure 3010s2 or similar. 

options 3&4, I might leave the tv unconnected and just get a soundbar for it. 

Be interested to hear any thoughts on direction as I can’t seem to see the wood for the trees at this point. 

 

Thanks for reading this far and any input anyone might be able to give. 

Original Post

The SuperNait 1 has digital inputs which means you can connect the TV. The chord mojo pairs well with the SuperNait 1. I'm sure it also works well on the SuperNait 2 however I've not tried that. The SuperNaits have much more power than the UQ this does ensure that you can drive a wider range of loudspeakers in the future.

For streaming I would go the Raspberry Pi + Allo Digione route. It does all you need. You can run the Allo DigiOne directly in the SuperNait 1 since the SN1 has a Dac. Later you can add a Chord dac, or even the Naim nDac.

My advice: get the best amp you can and build the rest around it. If you were a vinyl only or cd only guy, that advice would be different but since you connect multiple sources, the Amp is most important.

Thanks both. 

Phono - Im currently using a Schiit Mani. I also have a Heed Questar MM + Q-PSU that will likely go back in. 

Interesting that you’ve both gone option 3/4. This is where I’m leaning as likely better than the qute in terms of both pre and power, then I just need to use the simplest streaming approach for now. Probably allows most flexibility going forward. 

Good point on supernait, it’s the SN2 that loses the dac and it’s probably out of price range. 

 

I currently have a Qute. It’s my second one. My first one was a UQ2 that I used as source into Dynaudio XEO 3. I sold it and bought an Auralic Aries Mini and it worked great. Wish I would have never sold the AAM as they no longer sell them hers in the US. I know this because I bought a SN1 a few months back and was going to use an AAM as source into that. Instead I found my current Qute at a great price and bought that to use as source into my SN1. That worked well but again I felt I was wasteing the Qute so I tried it by itself and actually preferred it to the SN1. I sold off the SN1 and have been enjoying the Qute. That said I am considering adding a 200, as are you, or a 100. I haven’t had a SU but have owned a Uniti 2 for a couple of years and really enjoyed it. I’m sure the SU would just as or more enjoyable. I have also owned an XS 2, twice, with a ND 5 XS and could have lived with that for happily for many years. However I got a great deal on my 272/XPSDR/250DR and haven’t considered upgrading since. All that said I like options 1,2 and 3. If you go for one you can always save up and add a 272 later which I think is a great piece of kit. Option 2 gives you a simple 1 box solution. Option 3 has a really fun amp. I’m sure I’ll end up with another XS 2 at some point. I liked it much more than I liked the SN1 I had and sold. You have 3 great options but you could also add a 100 to the Qute and save a bit of cash too. Those 906 aren’t that power hungry I don’t think. 

Thank you. Not sure that helped haha. Far too many options in this game! 

Antonio1 - that being said. How can I know what speakers will work if I don’t have the electronics and can’t  audition the speakers at dealers as they won’t  hold s/h electronics? Even if I tried the speakers at home, I’d be trying with a uq2 which May mean I end up with the wrong sound? 

I think that made sense, to me at least. 

I’m looking at s/h costs. SN is approx £1400 ish. XS2 approx £1300 ish and XS approx £800. 

With either Xs route I’d have to add a dac and say auralic mini or bluesound node 2. 

With SN I can just get Mini and use built in dac (for now) 

the xs2 appeals as it is more recent technology, but not sure if it’s worth only £100 less than SN and then end cost is more currently as I’d have to include dac now rather than later. 

That’s probably too many boxes I’m afraid, I can handle integrated plus small streamer. 

As it’s a lounge and not a dedicated listening room there will be a point of diminishing returns too. 

Got a baby joining us in approx 4 weeks so that will require a small electric fence in front of any equipment I have too  

i think I could just get a nap200 and add an Aries mini / node 2 and a dac, somehow that doesn’t appeal as much as an integrated though. 

As I say, too many options. Not the worst problem to have though. 

Hi jme...have you considered that you could be Barking up the wrong tree...and it ain't your electronics or speakers that's the issue..but ultimately the recordings that are of poor quality.....no amount of upgrading is going to correct such issues and in fact will probably make those thin sounding metal and rock albums you like even worse....you say well recorded stuff sounds pretty good in your opening post....just a thought!

Here is an idea for you. Get a 155XS and add it to the Qute. Then swap the Qute for a 172XS. That’s two boxes that will do it all. Then, if you still want more, try alternative speakers. Small floorstanders are safer than small stand mounts with a toddler about - get some with grilles that cannot be pulled off easily or which can be fixed on with elastic. Been there!

Hi Skinny, 

Yes, I agree for the bad stuff it won't mask anything, i think Tool is mastered pretty well though generally and even that doesn't quite sound right.

Even some stuff like Santana or Miles Davis just doesn't quite have the dynamics or soundstage I know it should.

I think the suspended floor doesn't help but on quick sections where there is a lot going on it just all gets a bit much for the qute, i feel.

I should probably go demo an xs2 or supernait 2 with same source material to make sure it will make a difference. However, I am sure it will, and with better recordings and the flac files I have to potentially go on AAM or NAS it should be better again?

As I say, it's not volume, more grip and control that I feel is missing.

Thanks HH, yeah, I was looking at something like a kudos x2/3 or neat equivalent although need to try first. 

Local dealer was a bit lacklustre about 172 so I dismissed it. How would 172/155 play out against mojo & SN, if you've heard?

Sorry but I know nothing of these Chord DACs. Some seem to love them while others don’t. I’m all for simplicity, which is why I thought of the 172/155. It’s like a Qute but better, and being superseded it’s affordable. The other way is a used ND5XS and a Nait XS2. Both will be jolly nice, with some well chosen speakers. I’ve never heard a Focal speaker I’ve liked, but the Neat Motive 2 variants are nice. 

I can vouch for an XS2/ND5XS — it’s a very capable combination. Really enjoyed!! Having said this, I have recently sold the combo when we moved into rented accommodation. In a weak moment, my wife agreed to an upgrade (probably an SN2 and a Chord DAC) when we move into our new house. So I quickly sold the black boxes, and creates facts...  

Sometimes though I wonder whether I should have kept the XS2 for a second sytems. It’s a great amplifier! Well this is of course hypothetical day-dreaming — I couldn’t have justified an XS2 level second system... But it would have been so lovely... 

Thanks all for your input. 

If im honest, I’m sure an Xs or xs2 would be all I need. It’s just the fact that an old sn is so close in cost s/h with the xs2 that causes the issue and because a dealer won’t have both its hard to demo. 

Im very interested in the smaller format floorstanders such as neat sx2 and kudos x2. However, downfiring ports towards a suspended floor concerns me. Not sure if the thick carpet and underlay  would help or hinder. Plinths are an option. 

 

jme posted:

Im very interested in the smaller format floorstanders such as neat sx2 and kudos x2. However, downfiring ports towards a suspended floor concerns me. Not sure if the thick carpet and underlay  would help or hinder. Plinths are an option. 

I’ve stuck with my X2s for quite some time, partly because they are the least fussy speakers I’ve owned when it comes to room positioning. I don’t see the downward firing ports as a problem. The port points down towards the plinth, rather than directly at the floor, and as long as they’re spiked through the carpet to the floor beneath, I think you’ll find they are happy with most floor types. 

jme posted:

If im honest, I’m sure an Xs or xs2 would be all I need. It’s just the fact that an old sn is so close in cost s/h with the xs2 that causes the issue and because a dealer won’t have both its hard to demo.  

I would pay more for an XS over the SN1, which I thought was just not that great - good, not great, unlike the XS.

I’d suggest simply adding a new NAP100, which is the natural upgrade for the UC2 and will give you more dynamic drive and is in budget. I have this system in my media room, which is the size as your room. Otherwise a secondhand Superuniti, but then you have a UC2 to sell unless you keep it for a second multiroom, and you are buying old steaming technology.

if you are looking at further upgrades, adding a new streamer played through the UC2 would be a future proofed option. Probally the ND5 XS2 - slightly over budget, but then you have a great source to build up from.

Having owned UQ2 previously and currently using Bluesound Node2 in a second system, in your shoes I would look to upgrade the entire front end as putting in a better amp such as XS/2 may be a little wasted if you stick with AAM/Node2 as a streamer, both of which to me are only on a par with the streamer/DAC section of Qute.

I would lean towards SuperUniti. If you want to add more upgrade options later, then instead you could go for an XS amp with Elac Discovery which would be a good system and give you a sensible upgrade path to a very nice streamer-DAC later such as ND5XS2, if you felt the need.

Thanks. 

Star/Nova - See budget, even selling the qute these are way over. I don’t have cds anymore so star would be a waste too  

Re: Streamer. Does the actual streamer make a difference? Or is it purely the dac? If so, I’m hoping to get a second hand chord mojo/2cute/Hugo depending on availability/cost. 

Streamer does make a difference and I've found most DACs need a decent streaming source to achieve their best. Although it may limit upgrade options, a combined streamer DAC has benefits, not least getting rid of 'cable nervosa'. Quality of output from the source should be considered at least as important as the amp quality.

In this case, I don't see AAM/Bluesound Node 2 as any real upgrade from the Qute, even with a Mojo added. Elac Discovery to me should be a small but clear step up, and ND5XS or ND5XS2 would make a really nice system with any XS amp.

A SOTM SMS200/MicroRendu/Allo Digi1 with a Naim DACv1 would also make a very good quality streaming source, but with those transports can come 'power supply nervosa' so I would still lean towards either SuperUniti, or XS/2 amp and good streamer-DAC to get much from your current speakers than you hear right now..

Christopher_M posted:

JME, Was there something about my suggestion of Focal Aria 926 that you didn't like?!

They'd make the most of your existing set in a 4x5m room imo.

I’m not convinced a large £2,000 speaker on the end of the little Qute is a good idea. As JME has the 906, the 926 would simply be more of the same. It may be worth trying, though I suspect uncontrolled bass and more muddle might be the result. 

Thanks all. 

Completely missed the speaker recommendation tbh. It’s certainly worth a try, but as HH eludes to, might not solve my issue unless the amp can grab it by the unmentionables. Also Swmbo is unlikely to allow them in the lounge, although a similar footprint to 906, they are visually a lot more substantial. 

I’m going to try and hear some stuff this weekend to narrow down options. I could use qute as streamer only for a bit too.

thanks 

 

jme posted:

With fairly well produced music this sounds pretty good. When I move to anything fast paced it seems to get a bit muddied and lacks dynamics on passages I know well. I do like a bit of rock and metal from time to time and it seems to struggle with the pace.

'come on guys, you all know that a SuperNait 1 is a better candidate to bring dynamics in rock / metal music compared to the most shy XS.

Its a little less smooth than the XS, but who cares with rock? Not everyone is listening to string quartets all day ...

JME, its a little difficult. I really like the SN1 but I have it in a 45m2 room which is accoustically alive. Smoothness is part of my room. Smoothness is not something you can expect from a SN1 though a Hicap DR will improve it. Since your roomsize is about half the size of mine and packed with things, the XS might indeed be the right amp. Personally, I was and still am very happy with a simple streamer into the dac of my SN1. I mostly use it to listen to 17th century rock / metal music: the pipe organ.

Haha. Thanks again. Will try what I can and try and get an idea of the differences and then take a punt. 

I cant say I’m much clearer, well, maybe a little. However, from what everyone has said, I can’t see there being a ‘wrong’ decision, just without a proper demo it might no be the definite optimal choice for the room, but I can hopefully get either one sounding great with correct source/speaker choices. 

jme posted:

Thanks. 

Star/Nova - See budget, even selling the qute these are way over. I don’t have cds anymore so star would be a waste too  

Re: Streamer. Does the actual streamer make a difference? Or is it purely the dac? If so, I’m hoping to get a second hand chord mojo/2cute/Hugo depending on availability/cost. 

Really ? You say "I’m looking at s/h costs. SN is approx £1400 ish. XS2 approx £1300 ish and XS approx £800. " which add to £3500, which is around a  Stars cost.

You wouldn't need an external DAC, though you'd need a phono pre amp - Rega have highly regarded ones at ~£100 and £200 and of course there are others.  It'll save you space and from reviews the sound isn't a compromise compared with your suggested kit. Worth an audition if only to rule it out surely ?

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