Starting Over and I need your help

The more I read…….the more I become confused!…..Do I simply need to start over with more carefully selected components?

I currently own a Musical Paradise MP 301 III, Bluesound Node 2i, Omega 7 speakers, and a Rotel RCD 06 SE CD player. To me, this system sounds underwhelming, especially when streaming. I use Apple Music as a source but I am open to switching to another. I only play CDs and stream and do not see myself incorporating vinyl into the mix. Musical tastes are jazz and acoustic. The room size is smallish home office. By the way, I also own a Parasound Zamp that I currently don’t use because I do not have a preamp……should I sell or keep that?

I am willing to sell it all, if needed, to get better sound.  If you were me, what would you change or keep? My total budget would be under $3000 and by buying some used I bet you guys can help me figure out what I should pursue within Audiogon to purchase.

Many thanks in advance for your expertise and opinions!


Raleigh NC





I would try to get to a dealer and listen to several different systems regardless of cost and find something that sounds good to you- the sound you think you are looking for. Once you’ve narrowed it down, the dealer can assist you in finding stuff with similar properties and within your budget. Assuming you don’t want to just buy the system you’ve heard. Sometimes it’s hard to crystallize what you’re looking for until you hear it. Good luck

I never heard of the amp.  Googling reveals a tube amp retailing for $300.  I would have trouble believing that can drive anything.

  Get a decent integrated amp with at least 60 wpc.  You might want to go solid state.  I suspect your whole system will sound like it was infused with Viagra compared to your current set up

I'm not familiar with your components except for the Node 2i. The sound of the Node can be improved with an aftermarket power supply kit. There are several choices available. I bought the LHY kit from Beatechnik which is in Singapore. I would recommend the bundle kit with the LHY outboard dc voltage supply (I got the 25 VA option). All of their pricing is in US dollars. There are You Tube videos about the kit done by one of the main guys at Beatechnik.

Some amount of manual dexterity is needed to do the install but, it is rather simple to do. You will no longer use the C7 (figure 8) power cord but instead, will need to use a conventional audio power cord with the standard C15 IEC cord end which will greatly expand the choices of power cord to use in this case. PM me if you are interested in what I found to work very well with the LHY/Node setup. 

Your Omega 7 speakers are speakers you can build around.  I maintain that they are the sleepers of the Omega line and I actually prefer them to the Alnico models.

I would be surprised if your amp were not the piece letting you down.  Even though the Omegas are higher efficiency and do not require tons of power, I just don't get that the amp is doing the Omegas justice.

When I had the Omega 7's, I was using a Prima Luna integrated with them.  Over the years, I have moved equipment around and am now using a Heaven 11 Billie hybrid amp to drive Zu Audio Omen monitors.  Similar enough, but not quite the same as your set-up.  It comes with its own DAC and phono input, so a good number of options.  

Lots of reviews out there, including YouTube.  




Is your budget 3000.00 total or 3K + whatever you can sell your current components for ?

@rar1 makes a good point. The Omega speakers are pretty good and probably don’t need replacing right away. As others have pointed out, your amp seems to be the weak link. I’d start there with the thought of adding an outboard DAC to the Node. Those two things should enhance your enjoyment significantly.


If you go with an integrated or all-in-1 you don’t have to worry about messing around with components. THe performance and feature sets of integrated amps is excellent these days. I replaced $10K of separates (Audio Research  and Bel Canto) with a $3000 all-in-one (Cambridge Evo 150 which uses very highly regarded Hypex amplification) a year or two back and have been most pleased.

I'd keep the omegas for now maybe adding a sub or two to flush out the bottom end and sound stage. I've had a set and they can do some great things.  

your amp is definitely the limiting factor here. If I was you I'd have a look at Schiit Audio for new tube Preamp and SS amp easily in your budget. I'd suggest a freya + and AEGIR 2, would be a nice improvement and well under your budget. 

Another option would be the rogue audio Cronus Magnum III tube integrated, you can find these new in your budget and use well below.

Cronus Magnum III (

Schiit Audio: Audio Products Designed and Built in Texas and California 

many other option so do some searching on here and US/Canuck Audiomart. 

Good sounding audio typically takes effort. Research and careful choices. However, the good thing is that you have a system to start with. Typically most of us all really start there… then you carefully choose one component to replace after another. If we assume your speakers are adequate, then the place to start is a good solid integrated amp. You want to sell any extra equipment you have and reach as high as possible up the quality level.

There is a couple choices. If you are simply trying to get a really good sounding system then I would look at the highest quality, powerful NAD or Rotel integrated amplifier you can buy… preferably used, so you can be getting a really high quality one. No extra functions, just preamp and amp. If you want tubes, look at PrimaLuna. This replacement should kick the performance of your system way up.

If on the other hand you have aspirations of high end audio system some day, then a used Pass integrated amp (lots of details, punch and musicality) or if you want tubes a Audio Research I-50 is a musical wonder with detail and musicality with natural presentation.

this should kick your system into a really enjoyable place and give you the basis for additional improvements as is convenient for your finances.


All of these brands are highly regarded and reviewed… so you can read multiple reviews on them and start becoming acquainted with the literature on audio. Stick with Stereophile, The Absolute Sound and HiFi+ for reviews. These are the most reputable and neutral.


I agree with much that has been aforementioned. 

If speakers please you build around them. They are not a difficult load therefor offering many choices toward amplification. I would 1st purchase a line level integrated amplifier at 50-100wpc. After appreciating the improvements that brings I would then research and purchase an outboard DAC to be used with your Node and CD player. Then one could consider upgrading the power supply to your Node or consider another streaming option later. 

Take each step at a time, considering you need not spend your entire budget on the amplifier, thus saving some for the DAC.  I would suggest you start another thread on each item. 

I also think a $60 expenditure on the book 'The complete Guide to High End Audio' by Robert Harley to be beneficial.

Good luck in your quest.


you have two major issues underperforming amp and loudspeakers


the omegas are not going to have any real clarity a whizzer cone doesn't have the resolution of clarity of a modern tweeter

Before you change anything, maybe your expectations are just very high. Is your room set up properly? Maybe try near field listening. I have heard six figure systems that sound as you describe. Keep in mind, we are listening to recordings. If you ever have heard an ensemble of musicians playing at a park, auditorium, or some other place, without the use of amplification (non amplified)? I certainly have, and these "sounds" of the instruments cannot be duplicated by a hifi system. Many people who think this can be accomplished, some having BIG MONEY systems and awesome rooms, cannot get this (I am sure some might come close). I   adopted the reality when I was in my teens (I am 70) that recordings, all recordings, have limitations. Many have less, many have more, but limitations exist. If you read some of my posts here, you will understand what I listen to with a hifi rig. So, what is your system not doing for you? My best, MrD.

Your amp puts out 6.5W. Even with a 94db speaker, that's still pretty low. 

I'd try some tube rolling first.  That can change the sound of a tube amp enough to make you happy.  I have a similar power-level tube amp for my home office and with my 90dB speakers, it sounds great and I have enough power for the room, IMO.  

The speakers might be rolled-off in the upper registers due to no tweeter.  I'd look at just trying different speakers to see if  that reveals anything that you might be missing. The rest of the gear might be fine.  

I'd try a few different used bookshelf speakers and see what you discover.

Try adding a subwoofer. Upgrade the speakers.  If you are stuck with digital, make sure you have a DAC that will improve on the Bluesound DAC and whatever is fed from your CD player’s built in DAC.  

I would sell the Musical Paradise MP 301 III and the Parasound Zamp and buy a Schiit Ragnarok 2 integrated amp $999. 😎



3,025 posts


Before you change anything, maybe your expectations are just very high. Is your room set up properly? Maybe try near field listening. I have heard six figure systems that sound as you describe. Keep in mind, we are listening to recordings. If you ever have heard an ensemble of musicians playing at a park, auditorium, or some other place, without the use of amplification (non amplified)? I certainly have, and these "sounds" of the instruments cannot be duplicated by a hifi system. Many people who think this can be accomplished, some having BIG MONEY systems and awesome rooms, cannot get this (I am sure some might come close). I   adopted the reality when I was in my teens (I am 70) that recordings, all recordings, have limitations. Many have less, many have more, but limitations exist. If you read some of my posts here, you will understand what I listen to with a hifi rig. So, what is your system not doing for you? My best, MrD.


Defining one’s expectations and understanding how to make them a physical reality, or why one cannot, is indeed a crucial first step that’s often not practiced in hifi (e.g. with manicured recordings).

Very sage advice @mrdecibel .

I also own a Parasound Zamp that I currently don’t use because I do not have a preamp

You do not need a pre-amp. Just use the volume pots on the back of the Zamp. At least it's a free way to compare to your Musical Paradise MP 301 III.


this system sounds underwhelming, especially when streaming.

Can you be more specific about the sound? And ideas why streaming sounds worse than CD?

@simao is right, that 6.5 watts is not doing you any favors. A decent integrated amplifier like a Yamaha A-S701 or the Schiit separates or the Schiit integrated amplifier or similar that get you at least 100 good watts. A decent DAC and maybe a subwoofer.

All great advice, and I thank you. I am using my phone to access Apple Music, is this a weak link? I have just ordered a Schitt Modi dac per this thread’s opinion that the dac inside the Bluesound was not up to snuff. Baby steps I know but an improvement I hope !



Your Omega speakers are just fine and the Zamp is a fantastic little amp...I own both. If I were in your shoes the first thing I'd get is a subwoofer. A SVS SB-2000 Pro would be a great starting point to look. It will change the complete complexion of your system. No matter what you end up with, I think you'll benefit most from a sub!!!

Second thing I'd do is connect your Node 2i directly to the amp and see how it sounds. The Node can act as a preamp...even connecting a sub. 

If you're going in the right direction and want to continue (and you should), consider a Zpre which matches the Zamp. Another great option is a Schitt Saga+. They are both surprisingly good and you'd be hard pressed to hear a different between the two. 

To finish things off you could then upgrade your DAC and just use the Node as a streamer. Lots of fantastic low priced options out there. 

At this point you'd have a great sounding budget system and plenty of money left over for truly finishing touches like quality, but reasonably priced, cables and outboard power supplies. 

Best of luck....Tim



  You have the closest thing to a consensus that you will ever find on one of these threads.  YOUR AMP SUCKS.  I all capped it because you don’t seem to be picking up on this.

  The DAC in the Node is decent.  I can vouch for it as a former owner.  It can be improved but you won’t notice the improvement until you get a different amp in there.  It’s like worrying about the power steering in the car when someone stole the engine block.

You also have Audio Advice in Raleigh. Many folks no longer have audio stores in their town. 

Message received, loud and clear. I will start auditioning amps at the local store. I appreciate the honesty and will act upon this advice soon. 

Local dealer is a Cambridge dealer, anything within that line that is especially good?

+1 on Audio Advice in Raleigh (they're in Charlotte too). Good people to deal with and a wide range of brands to choose from. They have specials and open box deals regularly on their website. They can put something great together for you with your budget.

Stream Qobuz instead of Apple.  Costs about $100 yearly.  You will thank me later.

You will get better service at Audio Advice if you make an appointment and bring some of your own musical selections. 


Farmville, NC

Of all the ways to use a Node, Apple Music is among the worst. Airplay is convenient but not the top choice. Qobuz is fully integrated into BluOS. Then get a linestage integrated from a company like Van Alstine and give it a whirl. An outboard DAC might be next, power supply upgrade next, and cabling tweaks last. 

I think that above all you haven't focused on yourself enough.  What do YOU like to listen to, what type of sound balance excites you?

Above all keep it simple.  A small home office can be a challenging environment because of the speaker location and room acoustics. I'd focus on finding an affordable but good 2-way speaker like Monitor Audio, or Fritz or Hsu.

Message received, loud and clear. I will start auditioning amps at the local store.

Apparently not. You have a perfectly fine amp with volume control, a Zamp, you can try right now.

For sure audition, and there are some great suggestions above.

My 2 cents...I’d consider a used Hegel H190 - a very solid one-box solution if the Zamp doesn’t work out well for you. There are a couple for sale on US Audio Mart within your budget.

And go with Tidal or Qobuz for streaming.

Your biggest issue is Apple Music. If you are using AirPlay2 to stream from your phone, the Apple Music app will down-sample the stream to a very lossy 256kbps. This is an Apple issue, not Bluesound. 

Try signing up for a free trial of Tidal or Qobuz and see if that improves things on the streaming end.

I have a Node 2i in my main system, where I have it connected directly to my preamp, as well as through a Denafrips Ares II DAC. I stream Qobuz, Tidal and FLAC files from a NAS drive. All sound great, but Apple Music via AirPlay2 sounds really thin and flat. I couldn't figure out why until I learned about how the Apple Music app works on iPhones and iPads to down-sample the stream.

Sadly, Apple won't work with third-party streamers (except Sonos) to install Apple Music natively. There are a few Android-based streamers where you can add the Apple Music app and get lossless streaming (e.g. Eversolo). It is my understanding that you can get lossless Apple Music via the app if you use it on a MacBook Pro. Otherwise, you have to tether your Apple device directly to a DAC.


There are many options.  Schiit integrated, Hegel, Rogue to name a few.  If you like the speakers keep them.  The budget you listed doesn't leave you room for speakers.

Get a HI RES streaming service

Do not use volume on Bluesound as a preamp.  It bit strips and won't sound good unless you play it loud.

A sub is a good idea.  2 are better.

Amp, sub and streaming service is a good start, real good.

I agree with @daledeee1 's suggestions.   I tend to think long term and pay a little more now to save me money later.  I would buy a Hegel H190.  There are several out right now on all the sites including eBay.  I would target $2k. This integrated has a fantastic dac that you would need to spend much more to replicate as a standalone.  It is 150 wpc and will easily match with speakers up to $20+k and fill a larger space if needed.  I like Rythmik subs because the bass it fast and tight.  They are very reasonably priced new.  There are lots of quality REL subs and others around $500 in New condition on the sites currently.  U could pair that with new Magnepan LRS+ and be extremely happy.  You'll need some floor space for the Maggie's.  All in $3500.  A good used option is a pair of Goldenear Triton loudspeakers.  They are $5k speakers that sound like $10k speakers and are extremely well reviewed.  They have subs built in and could also serve as main speakers for a home theater if you ever want to set one up.  I think u can get these for $2k ish.  Both of these set ups give you full range sound.  In either scenario you would have to easily spend $10-12k new to achieve the sound from your $3.5-4k investment.

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my plea for help. Are there other lesser Hegel models that I should consider?


I would stop trying to cheap out on your upgrades, otherwise your sound will never have a comfortable budget, I would spend it.

Keep the Omega speakers, they are probably good enough for a $3,000 system; and the 94db sensitivity makes an easy load to drive. Same with the Node 2i outputting to your new Modi DAC, though if you are handy I would add the before mentioned LHY linear power supply ($279).

Dump your amplifier, there is nothing you can do to make it suitable. Now buy the best integrated you can afford with the remaining $2,800.....that is the only way to get to the next level. Dump Apple music, and get a Qobuz or Tidal account (I use Qobuz)....also connect the Node 2i directly to your ethernet output from your carrier's box if possible. Then you'll use the phone or iPad to control your music, but not stream

Replace the amplifier! You already have some very good recommendations for amplifier.....I would get an integrated amp, here are a few more:

Brand new Heaven 11 Billie MKII integrated amplifier ($1,900) - Has a tube preamp section, has enough inputs for you, and is very well reviewed by many.....I helped a friend put together a system with the Billie amp, and it really punches above it's weight. 120wpc into 8 ohms, 215 wpc into 4 ohms

Used Hegel H190 integrated amplifier ($2,100) - Recommended already several times, do not got with the H95, the H190 is much much better. Well reviewed, well thought of, and sounds great. 150wpc into 8 ohms, down to 2 ohm stable. Also can stream to the H190, to compare with your current gear

Schitt Ragnarock 2 ($1,100 in silver, $900 in black) - Well thought of, and a very good amplifier for the money.....I'd much prefer the Heaven 11 Billie or the Hegel H190, but the Ragnarock might be the best entry level amp.

Forgot to mention for the Schitt Ragnarock - 60 WPC into 8 ohms, 100 WPC into 4 ohms. Get the "Just An Amp" version.....the pricing above is for that version

I have began having experiences of Steamer Sources over the past few years, where attempts are being made to discover a Source in that is Parity in comparison to both CD and Vinyl.

By Parity I mean, where the experience had, has left myself feeling their is another Source with capabilities that will make it as attractive as a Source as the CD and Vinyl that it is being compared to.

To date I have not had a Steamer in use in my home system, I have heard them initially, up to a Value of £6K, in use in quite expensive Systems I was not unfamiliar with.

As time has gone by, I have kept the interest alive and the later periods of receiving demo's, has been where Demo'd Streamers, especially with a £7K Linn Model in use, along with lesser Value Loaned Streamers, used on a System that has required quite a significant spend to create. This system is one I am quite familiar with, where the System in use with a selection of Sources, either the resident one, or loaned to the System is a very very impressive end sound experience when certain Sources are in use.

Keeping the focus on the Streamer as a Source, I am yet to encounter a experience where I perceive the Streamer as a Source, is Parity to CD or Vinyl.

Keeping the focus on the Streamer as a Source, I have discovered Streamers that I do believe are worthy of a sitting with my CD and Vinyl as a Source, but to be exploited for the convenience the device brings to the table, immediate music replays from numerous Genre, of which many encounters of music are likely to be New and where many encounters will prove to be very enjoyable.

I personally, when having a Streamer in place as a Source, will not spend any energy trying to attain Parity in the impression made in comparison to the other Sources, I will learn as much as I can about making the experience as easy and convenient as can be achieved.

From experiences had to date, I will strongly suggest, to try and get a Streamer as a Source to present an end sound that has Parity with the already in use Sources, will be as much a waste of effort, as attempting to get the use of CD and Vinyl to be as convenient as having the Streamer Device at hand.

The OP will do well to stick close to CD when parting with $3K for the main Source and Supporting Devices. Best to retain the present Streamer Option and Postpone Spending. Only to invest in Streamed Data as a medium, if this is something wanted to be kept at hand and improvement sought at a later time.     

Hey, do we know the specifics of his meaning of "underwhelming". Most popular speaker brands are underwhelming. At reasonable prices, Klipsch Heritage, Volti, Daedalus, Tekton JBL and another handful are the brands that come to mind when you want to experience "overwhelming". To my ears, most other brands are bland and lifeless, but attract listeners for other characteristics. Those listeners who own my mentioned brands know those qualities I am speaking about. My best, MrD.

Muddy sound during streaming, ok while playing cds

just got Tidal account but am out of town so have not heard it on my system 

I believe the Tidal subscription will improve your streaming over the Apple Airplay. 

I use streaming for background music and discovery of new music. Once found I purchase the CD. Therefore my recommendations of 6/20.

Again, good luck on your quest.


I just received the Schitt Modi and hooked it up to my Node and Tidal,,,,,,,,,,,OMG what a difference! I did not know what I was missing….thank you everyone as that may be the best $150 I’ve spent in years.

Now to replace the amp. Leaning toward Ragnarok but will explore others soon.

All my best to those who took the time to offer their opinions. It is appreciated!

Hi Andy

Hi Andy I have designed high end audio systems for clients for over 40 years it it takes sometime patience and experience to design and setup a system properly. Generally I recommend discovering and visiting your local high end audio stores as one they carry the better brands of equipment and the audio consultants at these stores “typically” have the knowledge to help you design a system that reproduces music how you like it. We could use some better descriptions of what you like and dislike of the sound of your system. Also to what extent is your knowledge about system setup and calibration as that is a critical factor in getting the best sound possible from your system. Now I’m and and many hear are not familiar with the products you mentioned and of course system synergy is very important as that is a huge factor in a systems overall. But I would first recommend playing with speaker placement to see if you can get the sound you want from it before determining it’s the system combination does not work for you. Speaker placement is absolutely critical. But ya your best bet is to try speaker placement and then if it’s not performing as you hope for to consult a professional. It takes many years to understand it all and design a system that is faithful to real music.