How would you spend my next $5K?

How would you spend my next $5K?

Here is my current wishlist and system.  Where would you put you/my next $5K? I find nothing deficient in my system.  However, in my experience the right upgrade or tweak can bring surprising.  

What would you do?

1. Amp - Upgrade current Transparent Reference PC 

2. Upgrade legacy Syn Res Element Copper RCA

3. Upgrade Wireworld Gold and Platinum BNCs to WAVE BNCs (or just one pair?)

4. Tannoy Super tweeters

5. External LPS for M Scaler (DAVE SJ LPSU rocks!)

6. Second sub

7. Decent starter analog rig.  

This is my current setup-

Tannoy Kensingtons 

Single REL S/812 

Pathos InPol Heritage MK2 integrated

Innuos Zenith MK3 - PhNET - PhUSB


San Jacobs DC4ARC LPSU

Transparent PowerIsolator

OPTO Galvanic isolation 

Mostly Transparent cables 




Nice system.

Assuming you cannot remove the tv and all the equipment from between the speakers and dampen the walls behind with either dense wall hanging or acoustic panels. This should greatly enhance and deepen the soundstage and firm up imaging.


Then, first add a second sub. This will extend the sound stage and overall increase the dynamics. 

If you do not have direct lines, two direct lines. 

Not the analog rig - don’t start this unless you already have significant collection and significant desire to play it. 

Without listening to your system…hard to tell. But…

Acoustic treatment wouldn’t be a good investment. Upgrading the power supply on Mscaler could be worth it but shouldn’t be $5,000. Upgrade the amp may be?

#8, Whatever you are not happy with.

Why ask us? We don’t know your ears or tastes.

As a long time LP guy, this is not a good time to start going deep into vinyl record playback. Records, even the crap I considered standard "used bin" that was 4-8 US dollars, is now 30 dollars plus online and optimistically graded. I buy mostly old records, and mostly obscure stuff. The new "audiophile" stuff is also pricey for what it is and there is a lot of bad vinyl out there. 

I agree that adding a second sub might improve your overall presentation. It is very hard for me to make recommendations without hearing the system in situ, how it is set up in the room and what is "missing." I would assume that your system does not commit errors of commission but omission. That's an assumption, though.

I guess the real question is-- where are you dissatisfied? 

I find audio reproduction systems require gradual improvements over time-- once you finesse the set up and know how the system interacts with the room, you can concentrate on improvements. I also don't buy into "miracle tweaks." I think you build upon the strengths of the system by looking to improve the weakest link. What is that, in your estimation, OP?

Helpful comments, thanks.  I could say that  the Kensingtons and S/812 don’t fully pressurize my 15’x21’ space, though I’ve made some recent improvement in dialing  in the sub.  

Interestingly, my small bedroom (10’x12’) NAIM UNITI ATOM/Tannnoy MINI AUTOGRAPH/REL T5X fills the room very nicely with a good visceral feel.  Perhaps small room size and near-field listening helps this.  

+1 on a second sub.   Its benefits are beyond pressuring the room, but that is an obvious benefit.  Two generally support the image and soundstage and disappear more easily.

I would buy myself new speakers from your 5K and also buy you a beer and tell you how much I enjoy my new speakers from your 5K :)

I guess I second running a couple of dedicated lines. It all starts off with the AC quality.


Based on the pic, the room and speaker setup is where to invest money and time. 

I would start with the room and go from there. I'm 4yrs away from retirement and one thing on my budget is to build a dedicated listening room and start from there.

Address room acoustics.  You should be able to treat the whole thing with that budget or less and the improvement will be orders of magnitude greater than spending 5k on gear.

I hadn’t looked at the photo, so credit to the ever lovely @tablejockey. First impressions on that score- get the rack on a side wall and at a minimum cover the TV- I like dead space in between the speakers and nothing reflective. People can argue about diffusion or absorption between the speakers but I think it depends on the room and needs. Having the gear between the speakers and the TV screen there is definitely an issue in my book. Others may disagree.

I never owned Tannoys but I get my speakers out from the front wall and aim ’em. Granted, different speakers fire differently- I know people tend to want a big soundstage and also to have more than a single spot for ideal listening, so a lot has to do with positioning. There’s a ton of articles about good guidelines, but somebody who knows Tannoy may be better able to help than general guidelines. Jim Smith (who was ailing last I heard) was the Avantgarde distributor back in the day and had some good ideas on room set up (that was his business, as a service), but went with Tannoys after that. These days I know zero about what he is running. He might be receptive to a paid for call to consult. He used to go to people’s houses to do set up.

My set up may be unique to my system and room, so I’m not saying "my way" is best for you but I’ll tell you what I did:

My subs are actually centered between the speakers but away from the walls as well. I DSP’d them and then roll them off steeply 24 db/octave at 55 hz- my mains--Avantgarde Duos-- are unaffected and run full range directly from my tube amps with no DSP in between. I also adjusted phase and gain of the subs sitting in the listening chair and having help handle the controls.

Although I’ve owned the core of this system since around 2006-7, changing a few things made a big difference:

1. room- I moved. This is a bigger, longer room that is narrow at the speaker end (front wall) and widens. That alone makes a difference. I don’t use a lot of treatment: bass traps, and window treatment in addition to some nice rugs.

2. I worked on the power feeding the system-- checked the meter (with the power company guy’s help), main service panel and feeders were run to a subpanel that connects to big iso transformer (10kVa). I’m not suggesting you get spendy, but just an audit of the power coming in (you have control after the meter, and if you saw the Fremer video, his meter contacts were corroded). I prefer commercial electricians-- they are usually experienced and can deal with the demands of audiophiles, though you may have to educate them.

3. Set up in the room- I was able to set up the system after I moved pretty quickly with some help-- college football players from UT who moved the heavy stuff, I had rough positioning with little effort. My wife helped me dial it in. An inch or a small increment in angle of the main drivers made a difference. And I have a pretty large sweet spot with a back "row." She also helped me with adjusting the subs, and with VTA (something you need not worry about).

4. I changed cartridges, in addition to adding subwoofers and improved turntable isolation. All of it made a difference, particularly in the articulation and "filled in" quality of the bass. Since I'm not urging you to go in records (LPs), such changes as may be made to your digital playback will probably improve your results, but I can't recommend anything. (I do have the facilities to play digital sources on the two systems set up here, but I am primary a vinyl LP guy). 

5. Are there reflective surfaces- like windows- in your room? Those need to be dealt with and you don’t have to go all "audiophile" spendy to treat them.


I guess there are paid gurus to help. I do have a hard time evaluating systems without being in the room, and make no pretensions about expertise. I do know when it sounds better or worse. But, I’d also start a thread on Tannoy speaker positioning because I think that may be where you aren’t getting all out of your system that you could. The rest can be done to the degree of your ease.

Have fun, good luck!


Second sub was the first thing that popped into my head.  Then I read the responses and saw that I was not the only one.  I added two subs to my setup and it added something really special to the soundstage and imaging.  I don’t know if you can pull your speakers out into the room more but that might bring some improvements as well and won’t cost you anything.  If you’re interested in room treatments it’s worth it to buy a mic and use something like REW to see what’s going on in your listening space and what you need to address.

I like your idea for super-tweeters. You want as much "atmosphere" (illusion of space) in your smallish room as possible. Just make sure you can return if they don't work. Is Townshend still making these?

Room acoustics for sure...  Will make a BIG and long lasting difference to everything you have, and will buy from now on...

@grislybutter lives in my hood, i’ll get him that beer…

Your Atom has prat…… 

I would spend $20 on a copy of Jim Smith book - Get better sound = move gear to side asap…..

THEN revaluation of weak link…..

Have fun…..

I would spend YOUR 5k towards a pair on Audioquest Dragon XLRs 1 m that sells for 11k  for MY system. Ty.

I think I would go for the extra S812. I have a pair and they are great in a stereo setting. 

Well, I have Tannoy Churchill’s and when I added the ST-200 SuperTweeters it took them to another level not only in definition and soundstage but surprisingly in bass. So I’d recommend putting that on your $5k list. I think they make a model that match your Kensingtons. They are just under $2k so you’ll have the balance for something else. Good luck!

Definitely on room acoustics / equipment placement. Starting with the foundation is always a sound plan, no pun intended.

Spend it on whatever your wife/partner wants.  Take what's left in invest it in room acoustics.  Either way you'll reduce the noise level in your space.  It's a win, win.

+1 for second sub. I'm a dual sub convert. Tap the high level with those REL and run a true LR sub just outside your mains. I got a lot of extra soundstage width and the bass response was improved. 

Another vote for a second sub in a stereo sub configuration. This approach will greatly expand soundstage and increase retrieval of sonic details. 

Definitely go with the starter analog rig. Vinyl rules. I have a Technics 1210GR table and an AT-art9xi moving coil cartridge ($3,500 all-in), and my sound/enjoyment is 9/10. Then go to rateyourmusic, look up great artists, and start buying vinyl!!

Consider denoting it to the needed people.  I don't think you need to add / change anything further to your system.  Just enjoy the music.

Looks like you have a very nice setup, I’m a little behind you but, have similar equipment and just popped for a good DAC that’s on the way.  I don’t know how you can best spend the next 5k but, I have a question if you don’t mind. I have same front end Innuos but missing the PHNET. Does yours drastically improve the SQ in your system or is it negligible? In other words, would you do it all over again knowing how much better it is?

@hysteve Thanks.  I got a both USB and NET used, elsewise would not likely have sprung.  NET seemed to make a bigger difference although that may be because I got it first.  Deeper blacks. A more “settled/relaxed sound” and somehow a better grip on bass though I don’t know why that happened.  Innuos says  NET+USB get Zenith MK3 to 90% of previous pre Next Gen Stmt.  

Room treatments are what 90% of audiophile systems are severely lacking.

Otherwise, I recommend you spend the $5K on contact enhancers, fuses and voodoo shaman chicken bones. 

A second sub made a huge difference in my room so that would be my recommendation 

@helomech      +1   The issue with room acoustic treatment is the difficulty/expense and aesthetics that can prove overwhelming to many Audiophiles. Look how many "Agon systems" have that dreaded large flat screen TV prominently showcased. Since the OP never mentioned room treatments or dedicated power lines that would IMO make the most improvement.

Room is the issue for me to add components, but for the money, eh, maybe a bit more, a Naim Uniti with a 20 terabyte drive.  A local dealer that sells it would include his entire library, 16 terabytes of hi def music.  Music of every kind mostly ripped from the thousands of LPs they have and a host of other things that would take too long to describe.

Extra S/812 sub and some bass traps. After that, change out all your Transparent cables. They all add to muddiness of the bass. No bass detail albeit they add some airiness to the upper registers since they pressurize the room with their boominess. I’ve been extremely disappointed with Transparents. Most cables at 1/4-1/6 the price are much better.

More music. You have arrived after moving everything away from the speakers, Great system by the way! 

I read a bit of this thread. One can have the best system. Though without proper acoustical set up. You are not optimizing your systems full potential. 

Yes. A new power cord or new speakers are fun. Though proper treatment of your room will make all extremely cohesive. 

best luck 

Thanks for the thoughtful input.  Here are the responses to how you would spend my next $5K.  Seems a clear consensus between room acoustics and second sub.  Special kudos to those who said they would spend my $5K on their system. lol 

Second sub - 11

Room acoustics- 14

Super tweeter- 2

Cables/power - 3