Old Speakers, Up or Down, Improved Sound
How Old is Too Old?
I have been considering buying a pair of B&W Matrix 801 Series 3 speakers. Sonically, I am impressed, but the speakers were produced in 1990, and I am not sure if $2000/pair is a good investment, age-wise. I just don't know how much life is left in them. The current owner says he mostly plays music at a low level. Is anything I could check on my own, apart from auditioning, that can give me a clue in terms of how the speakers have aged and what's to come?
The only potential problem I can think of is that the surrounds, which attach the outer perimeter of the drivers to their frames, might degrade over time, depending on the material they're made of and the conditions in which the speakers have been kept (temperature, humidity, etc.). A friend of mine has a pair of Matrix 801 Series 3 speakers, which he bought when they were first introduced, and he has had no problem with them to this day. Assuming you can audition them to make sure there's nothing wrong—and that you like the sound—I'd say $2000/pair is a good investment.
Up the Down Staircase
I have a 4- or 5-year old Sony Grand Wega 50-inch rear-projection TV. I have it hooked up to an HTPC with nVidia video card that sends the signal to the TV at its native resolution of 1366x768. We movies we've rented on the HTPC's DVD player or from our home servers if we own the DVD and have ripped it.
We cannot afford a new TV right now, so do you think we would notice an improvement in picture quality if we had a Blu-ray player for the PC and watched Blu-ray discs? I realize we will experience the true benefit when we get a 1080p display, but will we see an improvement with our current TV compared with upconverting standard DVDs?
I think you would see a noticeable improvement in the picture. Instead of scaling up from standard-def DVD, you'll be scaling down from 1080p Blu-ray, which will undoubtedly look sharper. It won't be as big an improvement as it would if you were watching on a 1080p display, but it would be an improvement.
Room for Improvement
I have a Pioneer DV-610 DVD player that I use to play DVDs and CDs. I have it connected to an Onkyo TX-SR604 A/V receiver. For movies, I use Paradigm 7.1 Cinema speakers in zone 1, and for music, I use a pair of Mordaunt-Short 902i bookshelf speakers in zone 2. I'm happy with the way the system has performed in both zones, especially zone 2, but the audiophile in me is certain that the 2-channel performance in zone 2 can be improved and taken to the next level.
The DV-610 is connected to the receiver with 1m Monster 400i interconnects ($40). Will I hear an improvement in sound in my zone 2 speakers if I upgrade to 0.5m Monster M1000i ($100) or AudioQuest Copperhead ($80) interconnects? Would you suggest any other interconnects? I cannot audition cables in my area, so I must buy them sound unheard.
Also, will adding a dedicated CD player like the Cambridge Audio Azur 550C or 650C to the above system improve the 2-channel audio performance in zone 2? The Pioneer has 192kHz/24-bit DACs, but I still feel that it's primary design goal is to play DVDs, not CDs.
I believe that exotic cables do not make enough difference in sound quality for me to justify spending lots more money on them. Also, your system is on the budget side, which means you'll hear even less difference between cables, since the weak link is elsewhere. (You can most clearly hear the difference between cables in megabuck systems because the performance of each component is so good.) Thus, I don't think you'll hear much of a difference in zone 2 if you replace the interconnect cables.
As for the CD player, that might make a more noticeable difference, but will it be enough to justify buying a dedicated CD player? It probably wouldn't for me. I think the only way to take your zone 2 performance to the next level would be to install a dedicated system for 2-channel audio. Use the Mordaunt-Shorts and add a 2-channel integrated amp and CD player.
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