What’s your optimal music setup ?


Music has been playing in my life ever since I was a teenager in Bangkok. I would tune in to 107.7fm “the quiet storm” all day, growing up to the voice of Casey Kasem in his syndicated program and all the other DJs on the radio whom I befriended back then over the years.

Many many years later, as soon as I could afford it, I got my own hi-fi setup in my living room, with an Onkyo pre-amp, a McIntosh MC205 amp, and Bower & Wilkins CM9 line speakers. I even got the discontinued Oppo BDP-105 (not the D version) universal player and configured its DAC for use with my system. It’s all installed on great-value-for-money hi-fi racks from… Hifiracks.com.

After almost 10 years, I’d love an upgrade to my system, as we move to even higher quality digital music and my pre-amp and gear are not optimal anymore. If I had a bigger place, I’d love B&W 803 speakers, a proper recent McIntosh pre-amp (any good recommendation? specifically with a great DAC so that I can skip the Oppo, or a separate digital streamer) that I can use for both hifi and home theatre configurations. I hope I can keep the amp. I’d love newer cables (I can’t afford the price of Nordost’ Odin2); I read AudioQuest offers a good compromise at entry-level / medium level prices. I’m not convinced about power optimisers, although I did listen to a demo once for Nordost QRT that seemed to make a difference. Feedback on this anyone ?

In the meantime, I’ve upgraded the sound and music playing on my iMac. I subscribe to Spotify, Tidal (better for R&B, and rap; and MQA format) and Qobuz (better for jazz, classical music and opera in Master audio), and synchronise playlists via Soundiiz (although there’s a 999 songs limit for Qobuz playlists). I’ve not tried Apple Music nor Amazon Music. You can see what I listen to, as I scrobble to last.fm for statistics.

On my Mac, I aggregate all these sources for bitperfect playback via Roon which has a very slick interface. I also use Audirvana as an aggregator as it allows me to play the music via my local area network into the DAC of my Oppo universal player, then into the pre-amp, the amp and my living room speakers. Obviously I have Amazon Echo devices and Sonos devices in other rooms in my house (Roon supports Sonos) that are voice-controlled for basically streaming radio via TuneIn, but much lousier speakers. I’ve even calibrated the Sonos devices and my hifi system to the room with a specific mic and open-source software. But it’s cumbersome, and I’m not convinced about the difference upgrade.

On my Mac, I just moved from an Audioquest Black to Cobalt USB DAC that supports MQA, but is limited to 96 Khz. I compared them and it was very notable: clearer, more precise and fuller sound with the Cobalt. I’ve hooked 2 old and decent enough small desktop DELL speakers to the computer, and have yet to upgrade that as well. I thought the Bose Companion 50 would be good, but they were designed over 8 years ago. Reviews say they sound rather metallic. Probably I need to find active speakers such as the Audioengine A5+ or studio monitors.

Bottom line:

Thanks for your help ! This is a bit geeky, but I love audio. Obviously I’m a proud owner of volumes 1 and 2 of TAS (3 still not out), and the McIntosh heritage book.

ps: anyone recommends a signal-theory course ? such as these ? https://www.coursera.org/search?query=sound%20engineer

I did read back in the day a version of the Complete Guide to High-End Audio.



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