Recipe for Audio Equipment

Hello everyone!

I am a newbie and have no experience in good quality equipment and of course a limited budget. All I’ve researched so far has been through reviews on specialised internet sites so please excuse me if my choices don’t make much sense. The market supply is so great that I’m confused and in doubt. This will be my first quality equipment. Below are the brands and models that I thought could give me a good sound quality:

Streaming DAC: Auralic Vega G1

Wirelless Streaming: Auralic Aries G1

In the case of the two products above, my research indicates that with both devices together I can achieve excellent sound quality. Is this correct?

Speakers: A Pair of Martin Logan ElectroMotion ESL-X or ESL
Reviews indicate that these speakers are of good quality and honestly priced. I can’t go wrong with this choice :slight_smile:

My big question is which amplifier to choose: Powered or Integrated?
I chose three options:


I’m a Roon newbie and use an Imac 2019 as Roon Core. Maybe in the future I can get a Nucleus if I find it necessary.
The equipment will be for use in my home in a not too large living room basically using streamings like Tidal and Qubuz and FLACS from my CD library.
Thank you for your precious time and patience and really appreciate if you can help me to create my future setup.
Thank you very much

If you’re going with the Auralic box, all you need is a power amp. No point in adding another preamp, as you have one in the DAC box already. I hear that it’s sometimes tricky matching the amp to electrostatic speakers; you should probably get more advice on that pairing.

Hi Antonio,

Welcome, and congrats on this opportunity to build system that you enjoy!

Doing the math, it looks like you have established the following budget for a complete system with digital source:

  • Digital Transport: $2.7k
  • DAC: $4k
  • Amplifier: $1.7k
  • Loudspeakers: $3.5k

  • Total: ~$12k

Assuming that the goal is to build the best sounding, nice looking, and most enjoyable to use system possible for $12k (optimize for value for money), experienced system builders may spot some weaknesses in this allocation of funds.

First, if you’re going to be using Roon exclusively, you don’t need the Aries G1 if you have the Vega G1. The Vega G1 is already a Roon Ready device, so the Aries adds no value, unless you plan to use it in a 2nd system in front of a different DAC. I see no advantage in using these two components together.

Over half of the budget has been allocated to the source. Now, the source is certainly important, but digital technology has become really good over the past few years. The difference in performance between a $800 DAC and a $4,000 DAC is vanishingly small and would require a tremendously resolving room with more resolving loudspeakers than $3.5k can typically buy to detect, much less appreciate.

The other problem with allocating 55% of your budget to digital components is that these things change very quickly. Digital gear ages about as well a smartphone. Software, formats, standards and apps change really fast, so it’s difficult to imagine that you will be using the same streamer or DAC five to ten years from now, but if you choose wisely, it’s reasonable to imagine that you will be using the same amplifiers and loudspeakers in ten years.

If you’re familiar with digital photography, the same idea applies. People new to the hobby tend to get over-excited about the latest camera bodies and features and over-spend on their first camera body while under-spending on lenses. If they stay with the hobby, they realize that it pays to invest in glass since a good lens can last 10+ years and will outlast several generations of digital SLR bodies because tech changes so much faster there.

There are no hard rules, but spending roughly twice as much on loudspeakers as on amplification feels about right in this price range, so to optimize for long-term value, you just need allocate a higher percentage of your total budget to these bits that will likely stay in your system the longest. For example, roughly $6.5k on loudspeakers, $3.5k on amplification, and $2k on a digital source is likely to produce a system that substantially outperforms the components you have been considering.

If you really like Martin Logan, go with their Masterpiece Series instead. ESL 9 or ESL 11A if you can stretch a bit. The 11A can use ARC (Anthem Room Correction), which could make a big difference in the sound in your room. These run around $7k, +/- $1k for a pair.

The ESL 9 or 11A would be driven nicely by the robust Parasound Halo Hint 6 integrated amplifier for around $3k. The Wyred 4 Sound STI-v2 is about the same price, depending on options.

For your digital frontend, consider the Chord Qutest or Benchmark DAC3 B for around $1.7k.

You can Roon-enable either of these with the USBridge Signature Player or DigiOne Signature Player from People tend to think of Allo as a DIY company, but their Plug & Play products really are plug & play…they arrive fully configured with Roon and ready to go; just add an Ethernet connection. If you really must have Wi-Fi, they provide ways to make that work, but a wired connection will almost always be more robust and is worth investing in if you possibly can. These are top performers, but the investment is minimal, so if better stuff comes out a couple of years later, you can just toss them in the recycling bin without much remorse vs. having to live with a $2.7k doorstop.

Not the direction that you had in mind, but I hope this is helpful. Ping me if you have questions.

Update: I heartily agree with everyone here who has pointed out that spending some money getting the room right lays an essential foundation required to fully appreciate a ~$12k audio system. I only have a little over $1k invested in room treatments (a combination of ATS Acoustics and GIK Acoustics) for my 15.5 x 10.1 ft listening room, and the difference they make is beyond dramatic.

Have you heard the loudspeakers?
Not everyone gets on with that sort of unit. personally I’d never buy loudspeakers before listening to them as “the sound” can be a very personal thing.

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I’d also posit spending more on a DAC than on speakers doesn’t strike me as a sound approach.

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I agree with David_Snyder’s outline, but instead of spending more on a speaker, I’d suggest putting the “excess” money toward some acoustic treatment of your room.

You are unlikely to hear the difference between DACs and Amps, would be hard-pressed to spot the difference between different Martin Logan ESLs (unless jumping to a model with ARC), but will enjoy extremely obvious and large improvements to sound quality by improving your room.

Tell someone like gikacoustics about your room and speaker placement and they’ll give custom advice on how best to treat your room.

BTW, I have Martin Logan electrostatic speakers, and it’s quite important that you’re able to follow the recommended placement advice that you can find in the manual (which you can download from their website). If you can’t place them quite a bit away from the wall, consider a different type of speaker.

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Agreed, if you’ve not sorted room acoustics and have the opportunity to do so it’s the biggest bang for buck you’ll ever get in hifi.

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Thanks everyone for the tips, especially to David for the valuable information about electrostatic speakers and the amplifiers specific for this kind of product. Thanks to all who warned me about the space thatI will use this equipment. No doubt this will be the first investment to be made.
I have come to the conclusion that electrostatic speakers is not a good way for me to follow, I believe I should search for more traditional speakers and obviously if you have any brand tips that I should search for it would be very welcome. Again thank you very much everyone, I will do homework and disturb again.

Many thanks

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Antonio, if there are hifi dealers in achievable range go and listen to some speakers. Be open with the dealer that you have a budget and are looking to see what sticks with you. A good dealer thinks in the long term and you have a substantial budget!
If you don’t have local dealers go hang out on forums like this and ask if there is anyone local willing to show off their system. There are a surprising number of people who are proud and happy to show off!

Try not to be swayed too much by reviews the “massive differences” reviewers talk about are often the audio equivalent of restaurant critics complaining about the temperature of their truffle slices.