Can a simple modest stereo system sound impressive and yet be found at under $3000?

Audiophiles don’t typically start out on a $50,000 system.  First, they have to discover that they are an Audiophile right?

Once they feel the passion from their car stereo that they so proudly installed in high school or college, blowing away their friends systems, they at some point decide, I need something in my apartment or at home.

So I was thinking to myself, what do we have on the floor that I can not only impress myself with, but also someone that walks into our showroom, who desires to get a starter system that can maybe price out at under $3000? 

(Now we know that we can walk into most appliance stores and leave with a stereo for $1000 or 2000 dollars.  But do we really want a system that someone is always asking us to turn it down, because of the distortion coming out of those 100 watts?)  Okay, that said, my quest is now underway.

Okay, so my objective today, was to see what kind of impressive sound I could get out of the Bluesound PowerNode 2.  I wanted something that sounded rich enough in the highs and mid-ranges from our two channel, but also had that powerful low end bass to fill in on the bottom, so today it would be with the Rel T/7i Sub-Woofer.  

To loosely paraphrase what “The Absolute Sound” shared in their September 2016 review of the T7i, when listening to 2 channel stereo, a subwoofer’s role or purpose is to add quantity and quality of those low frequencies that many a two channel system is missing, not to add “boom” per say like in a movie, in order to hear and feel the full breadth and depth of a recording. 

Now granted, even a Newbie realizes that you don’t take an $800 Streaming Media Server/Amplifier and serve it up with some Wilson Audio Yvettes or Martin Logan CLX’s.  That said, I started from our lowest price modest speaker in the house, a pair of PSB Imagine XB Bookshelf Speakers, priced at $499/pr.

A few months back, I did listen to the Powernode 2 and also the NAD C 368 Hybrid Digital DAC Amplifier w/ Bluos streaming media card with a variety of speakers.  And to be honest with you, even after I went up to even a beginning high end speaker, I just wasn’t thrilled.  The overall sound was too much of the tweeter & mid-range and just not enough low end, even when I listened to some Sonus Faber, Martin Logans and others, I was just not impressed.  Now keep in mind, this test was with the Powernode 2 and the NAD C 368 that I tested with just a left and right speaker. (there is a reason why I mention that last sentence)

TAS-2017-Editors-Choice-Award-for-Rel-T7i, along with a few other awardsBut todays quest, as I shared above, is with a Sub-woofer, because we just got in the Rel T/7i.  And mind you, this puppy (the T7i) was on the TAS (The Absolute Sound 2017 Editors Choice Awards). 


So after getting the PSB Imagine Bookshelf’s strapped in, and then connecting the Rel T/7i to the back of the Powernode 2 , but NOT IN THE SUB-WOOFER OUT CONNECTION, but instead, I took the 3 copper wires from the sub, and draped the two colored ones around the + on the left and right speaker out, and then the third wire, I just connected to an arbitrary ground connection on one of the speaker out connections.  (Ed told me to hardwire it this way, instead of using a plug into Subout)

It was time to fire it up! And the awesome thing about the Rel T/5-7 or 9 i’s, is that you have like 3 adjustments you can make.  1) You can adjust a high/low level, 2) Crossover adjust between 30 hz and 120 hz and 3) .1/LFE Level to your taste (when setup for surround sound and not 2-Channel stereo setup), so it doesn’t sound like an explosion, when you are just trying to listen to Dire Straits – “Fade to Black” .  

I fired it up, and I thought it sounded pretty excellent.   We had a nice pair of bookshelves at $499/pr, the Powernode 2 for $799 with it’s 60 watt amp, and the Rel T/7i for $999, plus your cables, your coming in maybe under $2500.  It did sound good, and not to just some rookie.

But Ed came in the room, and with his borderline passionate/obsession of sound quality, he first had to adjust the speaker angle as they sat up on the display table. But after a few minutes,  he went to get the Kef LS50’s, and we removed the PSB’s and put the Kef’s on the table.  Within minutes, excessive Ed (kidding) asked me to get the stands for the Kef bookshelf speakers. The speakers just needed to be placed further apart to get that equilateral triangle of sound.  Then we fired it up.

Pretty Mind-blowing.  Sounded fantastic.  We already know the Kef LS50’s sound fantastic, they won the Product of the Year award with “What Hi*Fi”. But now packed with the Rel sub-woofer, it was truly remarkable.  A customer friend & audiophile, named Dave came in asking what was new in our world.  And Ed asked Dave if he’d like to hear the Kef’s and the Powernode 2 system with our new Rel T/7i.  Dave was pretty blown away.

Okay, we did leave the room of $2300-2500 systems (which is still available), but we also stepped into a higher and more amazing level of Audiophilia.  

So with the amazing Kef LS-50’s at the new reduced price by Kef of $1200/pr, plus the Powernode 2 at $799 & the Rel T/7i at $999 plus decent cables, you’re looking at a pretty stellar starter system at around $3200 + or -.

So what is the ultimate take-away here? Adding the REL T7i isn’t intended to add kaboom (as you might want when watching movies), the REL Sub-Bass speaker gives you the full range of what you were missing in the low end

When you listen to our main 2 channel system in “The Transporter” room, an over $300,000 system, it’s pretty fun to see Ed still get excited about a modest priced high performance starter system.  I know I was excited and pumped!

Additional relevant keywords: audiophile beginner system.  PSB Imagine XB Bookshelf Speakers, Audiophile questions answered here at Audible Images. PSB Speakers Imagine Mini Bookshelf, PSB Imagine X2T Tower Speakers Transitional 3-Way Tower Speaker. Best Buy and Magnolia Home Theater we welcome you to stop there first, and then Audible Images AV.



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