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January 28th, 2008

Audiophiles? Anyone??

So I've been looking into buying a sound system and am very hyped about it all but have bumped into a few hurdles.  The hurdles stem from being an audio n00b so I'm hoping there's some audiophile out there reading this and will have some recommendations.

Basically I'm looking to play my awesome minimalistic music (aka. heretical classical stuff) out loud.  This requires loud speakers.  And it rules out the ubiquitous "home theatre system".  I'm not interested in Lucas' latest sound effects on this system.  I do want to hear every god damned note played on every puny instrument from hell, from the highest sopranos to the lowest pipe organs.  :)  This requires good loud speakers.   It sorta rules out the ubiquitously cool sub-woofer.  (Actually some reading reminded me that the bottom key on a piano is at 28Hz so the system does need to go at least that low, or lower because Part and Glass likes pipe organs, so a subwoofer actually would be an add-on for later).  Someone recommended the Vienna Acoustics line of floor-standing speakers.  They're nice and I do love German/Austrian engineering; they're also expensive, so I'm looking for cheaper alternatives.  Several people on audiophile forums talk up the Klipsch line of speakers as bright (or even sibilant) but I'm liking the horns on them.  If I wanted to go dirt cheap, then I should settle for Pioneer or Sony but I sampled Gorecki and Glass on my brother-in-law's 4-way CS-J725's and ... well it was awful.  I couldn't hear every note during the intense sections of Mad Rush, and the Symphony of Sorrowful Song's soprano sounded like she was whimpering instead of crying out.  Now these could be bad recordings but I also sampled a non-acoustic (i.e. direct line) keyboard version of Mad Rush and heard the same problem.  (All samples were CD.)  I'm thinking a decent pair of 3-way towers that have good range (30Hz-20kHz @ +/- less then 3dB) powered by 100-200W drivers should do the trick.

On to amps and receivers.  I must be a n00b because it baffles me that amplifiers and/or receivers on the market are rated at <100W per channel!  How are my decently nice speakers suppose to work if it can't drive them to full power?!  It seems reasonable that manufacturers might expect average consumers to not crank up the volume above 30-70W, but I need loud music sometimes.  How are patriotic Americans suppose to celebrate 4th of July without the Russian's 1812 Overture at high volume??  Seriously though; to simplify things here is what I'm digesting.  I need a receiver to hook everything up and an amplifier to drive the speakers to their full potential, right?  The cheap option here is again Pioneer, which is what my brother-in-law has, but I had been looking at Yamaha and Harman Kardon as a step up in quality/reliability, or even vintage stuff if it's good -- like 1970's era Marantz.  It sounds like there's all-in-one receivers/amps out there but I've decided to piecemeal this so that I can concentrate on tuning one thing at a time.  For example: first get the loudspeakers working in stereo for CD playback with a receiver.  This requires only a receiver with CD input and front speaker output.  (They should have called them "transceivers" to be precise.)  Second, slip in an amplifier to drive the speakers for excellent, aka. hi-fi, CD playback.  This only requires a stereo amp at the loudspeakers rating.  I'll add my turntable, equalizer, FM tuner, keyboard, 5.1 surround, etc. later. 

The budget is $1000 for receiver and/or amplifier and loudspeakers.  Yea, I'm poor.  Recommendations?