Opinions - Component Upgrading - Which First?

Hello, I’m new to the Roon forums. I have been using Roon with Tidal for a couple months now and I’m hooked. But, I can’t help myself from tweaking… and as such I’m looking for some opinions on what components to upgrade first in my system.

I have a very modest set up that was purchased quite a few years back with the intention of using for TV/movies but a couple houses later I now have it set up in my sitting room as a dedicated listening space. My thought is to upgrade one component at a time and move the displaced components to my basement for watching movies.

I have a Marantz SR6008 driving a pair of Polk Audio RTi A1 bookshelf speakers and a Polk Audio PSW10 sub. Audyssey room correction is set up and active.

Originally I was feeding the Marantz with a CCA, but needed the CCA for my patio speaker setup. So being the electrical engineer and tinkerer that I am, I remembered I had a Beaglebone Black in a box tucked away in a closet. So, I dug that out, flashed it with an updated version of Debian, installed Roon Bridge and now its feeding my Marantz via HDMI.

I’m using Roon DSP for upscaling to 24/192 but I’ve also been playing with HQPlayer and like the results, but have not committed to purchasing it, so I’m sticking with Roon DSP at the moment. After playing with speaker positioning, I’m quite impressed with how this system can sound. I’m listening to Nils Frahm - Spaces as I write this and it sounds very good, but there are improvements to be had. The bass is not tight, the highs ring too much and the mids sometimes cause a harsh reverberation in my ears. In complex parts of songs, It sounds like distortions along with a loss of separation between instruments.

So, a long lead into my question. I want to upgrade, but what will give me most bang for my modest buck? Should I be looking at upgrading my transport (the Beaglebone Black)? Or look at an external DAC (using the one built into the Marantz SR6008 now)? Or should I spend my money on new speakers/sub? At this point I don’t think my amp is the weakest link, but I could be wrong.

Current system:
Tidal > Roon w/ DSP > Beaglebone Black > HDMI > Marantz SR6008 > Polk RTi A1

Well, if you got to the bottom of my post, I thank you. And if you have any input or opinions, I appreciate that as well.


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First order of business: What does your room look like? What can be done to improve the listening area? Speaker placement is crucial here, both in relation to nearby walls, but also in relation to you as a listener.

2nd order would be to look for other speakers in case the ones you have are not the ones your ears like.

Changing DAC will have no effect on the issues you describe. People might tell you otherwise, but what will truly make a difference is the room and the speakers.


Thanks for the astonishingly quick reply Martin!

The listening space is admittedly not ideal. I’ll try to attach a photo here. So if you can see the photo, I have the speakers setup to direct along the length of the room, with a dining room being directly behind me. I’ve thought about putting the speakers on either side of the French doors and directing at the couch, but haven’t tried because of the cabling challenges associated with that. Typically when using the space for listening, I’m solo and sitting in the chair closest to the camera. Not sure what else to do with the listening space.

I appreciate the pragmatic advice and will dive deeper into my search for new speakers. I’ve done some initial reading on the B&W 606 and KEF LS50 bookshelf’s.

I was getting sucked into the DAC world and looking at value DACs like the Schiit Modi 3 and DragonFly Red (which does MQA rendering), but I’ll park that inquiry.

Thanks again

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While DACs are fun to play with, they will have a very low impact to your overall listening experience. NOT the place to start. And you don’t need an MQA DAC for Tidal, either. Roon (and others, like the Tidal app itself) will do the first unfold and that’s 95% of the MQA experience right there. The last 5% is the low-pass filter used (which ALL DACs have), and is essentially inaudible.

As mentioned, the room itself, and the placement of the speakers and furniture within it, will have the biggest impact. Next up is the speakers themselves. Than the amp. Then a LONG distance behind that, the DAC. And don’t waste your money on any of the snakeoil garbage like expensive cables; those won’t change the sound at all. (However, there are plenty here that will swear the snakeoil stuff will make a massive difference – don’t listen to them.)

(There is nothing wrong with DAC/AMP combos, either. But don’t start there.)


Up through the end of May, the LS50s were on-sale for $900/pair. They’re back up to $1200/pair now, which is still less than their “list” price of $1500. If you decide on them, I’d wait for them to go on sale again.

Even if you feel bound to the room setup you have now, there are still many things to play around with before opening the wallet for new fun (even if I really think a new DAC is not the place to start, I admit such tinker is still fun!) investments.

I see you are using the room correction in your Marantz. Have you tried without it? Have you tried your speaker without the sub? I’ve never myself heard a room correction done right (many swear by it though!), and I know it is notoriously hard to get a well integrated sound with one (1) sub. Even pairs is to recommend, but not all have the will or want to add several of those to a home.

You seem to have an ok distance from back wall and side walls, but you can still play around with fine-tuning the speaker placement. You have furniture, carpets and things on the wall, but the more the merrier! Bookshelves! :slight_smile:

It is hard to say what is causing the ringing of highs and mids and the boomy bass, and since it is hard to do that, I would being to work with what you have. If you later suspect the speakers are at fault, then listen around and borrow to your home if possible.

Other than what’s already been suggested (“first, thou shall ensure your room is as good as can be, and your gear is as properly positioned as your spousal unit shall let you get away with”), since you’re describing a fixed listening position and room correction can be done within Roon, I’d suggest you either dive into the rabbit hole of measuring, or get in touch with one of the services that can do it for you (the Home Audio Fidelity guy is more active here, Mitch Barnett at AccurateSound also comes to mind).


Got the Kef LS50s myself and I love them.

They are very detailed but quite a different listening experience to conventional speakers as they are nearfield monitors.

Thanks to everyone for the input. You’ve inspired me to keep tweaking my space and equipment before spending money on new equipment.

I have spent some time trying to dial in speaker height and position and have re-run the Marantz room correction a couple times, but speaker position and Marantz configuration are probably not fully optimized. Maybe running the Marantz is pure direct mode and using Roon DSP/room correction would be better. I might have to peak into that rabbit hole.

I haven’t played with sub position, it is currently located behind my listening position, which is likely not ideal (this is where spousal influence plays a role). I’ll try different positions, but am aware that sub position is not as critical as speaker position. And I have not spent much time listening without the sub, so that’s something I can try. Running a 2 sub setup is an interesting thought as well.

Another note - I’ve noticed a buzz from my sub (even when only plugged into to power, no line in) and a very faint buzzing in the power supply of the Marantz that I can hear transfer to the speakers. I don’t think its ground looping as it exists with all inputs isolated. I’ve also tried multiple outlets. I suspect noisy, dirty power from my electrical system - my failed Sony TV in another room this week is more evidence that is fueling that suspicion. I’m going to start researching solutions to this, possibly a power conditioner? I welcome ideas for this as well but realize it is a deep rabbit hole in itself.

Thanks again folks, my wife will be happy that you’ve talked me out of spending money for now, but maybe not thrilled that I’ll be moving things around again!

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Power conditioners are indeed a rabbit hole.
You can spend a lot of money, but with increasingly diminished returns

I use this -

IMHO, spending money on analogue devices, i.e. speakers, amps, preamps, is more productive than the money spent on digital devices, i.e. DACs, and especially streamers.

Speakers, speakers, speakers. The best you can afford in the ones you like.
In speakers, money does generally equate to quality.
Everyone’s ears are different. I feel that Polks, at least the ones I’ve heard, are very unmusical.

For music, lose the receiver.

FWIW. :sunglasses:

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Forget about the ls50 in that speaker setup and lisening spot, they are way too small. ls50’s are nearfield speakers, not suitable for mid-field. I have had a pair and I even listen closer than you and they sounded like a bluetooth speaker compared to other bigger loudspeakers. They are nice on a desk though.

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Thanks for the tip on the power conditioner. I’ll look into that. And point well taken on speakers, thank you.

I’m curious about the comment about losing the receiver for music. My intention is to eventually move this receiver and speaker setup to my basement for movies and use the receiver as it was intended, but I’m not in a hurry to do that and I’m curious about the “why” behind your comment.

Thank you, that’s good information!

I don’t know your speakers, but just for perspective, my own experience:
I had a long period with subwoofers combined with various speakers, a big sub with digital room correction, but I was never pleased. At one time I had some excellent speakers but limited to about 45 Hz, and I realized I don’t listen to church organ or watch blockbuster movies, and just disconnected the sub. Much better! Clear and coherent sound, and 45 is fine for a standup bass.

A really big and well integrated speaker capable of its own bass is better, and I eventually got that for the main room, but I still have the pure bass-limited speakers in one room. I love clarity over bombast.

Just an observation.

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Interesting observation you had with your system. I’ll do some further tests on my own. I do find that I’m missing a fullness without the lows of the sub, which is why I purchased the sub years ago. But I’m also realizing that my sub may be impacting overall sound quality. The sub itself is not high quality, so that I’m sure has a role to play.

Maybe my speakers weren’t set up well enough to give me their full range, or maybe it is just a limitation of the speakers themselves. Spec’s as follows:

Hi, I’m not sure what your budget is and if your set up is just for music. If it is just for music, you need a new stereo amp and some bookshelf speakers. No need for subwoofers. The KEF LS50 speakers are great if your budget can stretch there and there are loads of good speakers around for that type of budget. The Marantz Amp you have is a nice piece of kit but its more for home entertainment with a 7.2 channel output.

So I’d start the upgrade there. Look at the other areas after that. It doesn’t matter how good your music source is, if the amp and speakers are not up to it.

Happy shopping.

A receiver has a tuner, multiple amps (in your case 7), at least one DAC, a phono stage and gawd knows what else. All for a price of around $1200. Choices have to be made to bring a device in at that price and the loser is quality of components.

To me the SQ of a receiver has no ‘presence’ compared to even an integrated amp.

I have an Onkyo 7.1 receiver, strictly for movies. I run the surrounds and back channels off the receiver. Because the center channel gets the most action, I connect the center channel pre-outs of the receiver to a monoblock amp. My pre-amp in my stereo system has HT pass thru, so I can use the front pre-outs of my receiver into the stereo pre-amp to feed my stereo amps and stereo speakers when in 7.1 mode.

When I listen to music, it’s a tube pre-amp into two solid state monoblocks.

BTW - frequency response of 50 HZ is not very good. I also agree about the undesirability of a sub. For music, they need to be crossed over very conscientiously to sound integrated with the main speakers.

Now, the dragon is chased.
If you are serious, and there’s no particular reason you should be, then lose the speakers and the receiver.

OTOH, your wife probably won’t be on board with that. :slightly_smiling_face:

Find a good dealer that will lend you speakers to try at home to decide which you like best. Failing that look on well known auction sites and buy bargains that you can resell for a similar cost until you find the ones you like.
If I were starting again I would look at active speakers though and forget the amp. PMC, ATC, Adam, Quadral for example.

On the other hand… you can’t recover information that a poor source has already lost, and the ‘better’ your speakers the more obvious that will be. Ultimately you need to strike a good balance…

(and -3dB at 60Hz is probably fine for a lot of music… what do you listen to?)

It would help a lot to know what your budget is. Certainly, for two channel listening an AV receiver is not ideal so a decent integrated stereo amp and better bookshelf speakers than the Polks are going to give you a big uptick in sound quality.