Advice on system and speaker placement-B&W

My system is the following:
B&W N804 speakers
Musical Fidelity a3cr pre
Rotel 1080 Amp (200 watts/channel)
Cary 303-200 CD
Harmonic Tech Truthlink Interconnects
Tara Labs Prime 100 Speaker Cables
System running for three years now and fully broken in

My room is 20 ft wide, 35 foot long and 15ft high, along the right 35' section, there are several large openings into other rooms, along the left side of the 35' opening there is a large opening into the entryway. Speakers are 10 inches off the 20 foot wall and 10 feet apart (I can't move the speakers out further into the room).

My system sounds wonderful on well recorded rock, jazz and classical, but many CDs sound thin and uninvolving, with too much highs. Does anyone have any advice as to how to make my system sound better for the other 65% of my recordings? I have started other threads on this topic, but without the whole story on my room setup. I am skeptical of expensive changes to amp/preamp because my system sounds just great on 35% of my recordings. I could use a sub, i could look at new speakers (i like a rich full sound but with dynamics), or maybe an extra CD player (that is easier on the recordings-but not sure if this would be enough to solve the problem). I know this is a complicated question, but there seem to be many of experienced folks out there. Anyone have a simliar situation or setup and advice? Any help would be appreciated.
If you can't have the speakers further out into the room or closer together, have you tried relocating them to the long wall? I had some older B&W M801s in that kind of arrangement and they imaged amazingly well despite everything being "wrong" about it. The speakers were about 10' apart and 12" out from the wall (to the back of the speaker box). In this position, the speakers became transparent, and it sounded like the music was coming out of the wall between them, with considerable depth in the sound image. I've never heard anything else like that, before or since.

Note: In the setup I just described, the long wall behind the speakers consisted of traditional interior plaster over solid masonry. That combination of materials might have accounted for much of the acoustic success in an otherwise atypical placement. Thus, if you can move your speakers, I'd also recommend that you determine which is the most solid wall in the room, and try the speakers in front of it. Start out with your 10' spread and approximate listening position, and then play with pushing the speakers a few inches toward or away from the wall until the image "focuses" on it. If it isn't working, try putting them a little closer together and repeat the exercise, or adjust the toe-in. Keep an open mind about listening position too, as you change the speaker positions.
My recommendation would be to obtain a subwoofer. I currently have N803's but just sold a pair of 703's which also had the problem of being to bright at times. Your 804's should be o.k but I think a sub will give you the warmth in sound you are looking for. The 700 series sub from B&W is very musical. Also, Velodyne has some very nice subs. Even Outlaw has had excellent reviews on there sub.
I would stike with a forward driving sub that is ported just like your current speakers.

if you are open to getting rid of the 804's you would also see a significant difference with a pair of 803's or 802's due to the cabinet size difference. I hope this helps. Dont get me wrong your 804's are a great speaker so if it was me I would start by trying a sub with your system.

Thx for your response. Unfortunatley, I can't move them along the longer wall, so not an option.

Another thing, the reason I'm wondering about the source, is that I have an old kenwood tuner that sounds alot less bright and pretty good for the poorly recorded rock on my cd player. Dave, did cd player have much effect on your system?


I have been in your shoes before and actually started buying music based on the recording, not what I was into as I wanted things to sound good and not bright. You have gotten some good advice from Dave and Ubglub.

Here is my 2 cents for what it is worth. The Rotel and MF are not the best match for your speakers. They never will be either. Based on my experience, the best match for your speakers is Tube Amplication. The metal dome tweeter in your speaker is just not getting along with your average SS amplfication.

This is from a review and I agree totally.

"The N804 prefers tube amplification. Being a tool, it has very little sound of its own. It does not seem to be voiced either on the cool and analytical side or the warm and sweet side. On the other hand, the superior resolution clearly presents any hint of the typical solid-state characteristics of coolness and upper frequency grain. Less than top-quality "sand" amplification should be avoided."

The Rotel stuff is okay for the money but your speakers deserve better. I would sell the MF and the Rotel and get a Tube Integrated or even a Hybrid. The Unison Unico would be a stellar match and make everything shine. Even less than perfect recordings. Or take a look at some full tube rigs like Cary, Manley, or Prima Luna.

This WILL fix your problem. Moving the speakers and adding a sub may help but will only band-aid what you are experiencing.

List your MF and Rotel on Audiogon and go shoppping. Your CD Player and speakers are not your problem. Good luck.

I really think you have an issue with speaker placement. I also have N804's. However, they are currently in a dedicated listening room (15'x22'x9.5) , so I can place them anywhere I want. I found that using the Cardas method really works out well. Speakers are 6'-1" from the front wall and 3'-10" from side walls. Spacing is 7'-4".

For the size of your room, the 804's may be a bit small. You might move up the B&W line to the new 803S or 803D. Actually, any of the larger B&W's would work. Given that you can't move the 804's and considering that you may not want to drop 8k for new speakers, you could try a tubed preamp and see what that does to the sound, imaging, dynamics, etc. As someone noted above, they do respond well to tubes, so if you like the results from a tubed pre, then you can try a tubed amp. I am using a tubed pre and SS amp(VTL 5.5/Krell 2250). BTW, I doubt that your CDP is the cause of this. Hope this helps some. Good luck.
Its interesting that the issue of tubed amplification came up. It hadn't occured to me before. I've been using a very good tube pre with SS amps
Thanks for the input. Midrons/Chris, I tried a cary 308 tube preamp with the Rotel amp and it helped but was still glassy on top. I also tried the BAT VK-300 (not tubed version) and it wasn't any better than my musical fidelity/rotel setup. I'm guessing I need to think about a more foregiving speaker here (placement and bad recordings). But pls keep the thoughts coming.
You didn't mention how far back your listening position is. If there is any way to get them a little further out, then I would do so. I've alway used the 1.5 rule (or manufacturer's recommendation) when first setting my speakers up and experiement from three. If your speakers are 10' apart then your listening position should be about 15' from each speaker. I also tow mine in so they point to about 6" to the side of my ears while seated in my listening position. This works well for me with speakers that have good dispersion. However, some spekers sound better towed to a point just in front of the listening position. Just some things to try, but you'll just have to experiment and see what works best in your room. BTW, setting them up along the short wall is best IMO.
You do have a dilema. I would think that the BAT would have smoothed things out. Are there enough dealers near you that you can bring any demos home and try them for a weekend? That way, you can listen in your environment.
Jack, I do listen 15ft from the speakers. Something else that I notice is that once I am further than the 15 ft the speakers sound thinner with less bottom end, so I wonder if the room is being pressurized (maybe a sub?).
Your speaker set up should be an equal-sided triangle (three equal lengths) - speaker to speaker is the base of the triangle, your ear (listening position) to the speaker is one side, your other ear to the other speaker is the third side. You might try positioning the speakers a bit closer together and also bring your listening position in closer so you form a smaller, but equal-sided triangle. Because the metal dome imparts a brighter sound, you don't necessarily want them directed (toed-in) at your ears. Try toeing them out a bit (not actually toed-out - still "toed-in", just not directly at your ears) so the line from the tweeters is directed past your ears. Because your room is so long, you may not be experiencing a harsh return from the back wall (behind your listening position). Even so, it is always a good idea to eliminate a "reflective" back wall with simple treatments (a thick tapestry works well). The distance your speakers are placed away from the wall should have more of an impact on lower frequencies than the highs. However, if you could bring them out just a bit more, you may gain some imaging. Also, do the "slap test". When the room is quite, slap your hands and listen for an echo. Use room treatments to eliminate the slap echo. Don't buy expensive room treatments - be creative (placement of furniture, wall treatments, pillows, etc.) You can also make cheap 1 x 2 frames fitted around some high-density foam and covered with some "artsy" fabric - these make good wall treatments. The idea is to experiment with what you have. Understand that poorly recorded CD’s are always going to sound worse than recordings that have been engineered/recorded well – a down side to this hobby. Oh, and when Judy chimes in here and tells you that it's all because B&W can't build good sounding speakers, just ignore her!!

Good luck.
Jeff, this might sound ridiculous, but with my B&Ws, even increments of 1" can make a difference when you're talking about distance to the back wall. Have you tried moving them out 1 or 2 inches?
> 2chnlben lmao.


I don't know if your CD source has a duel output SS and tube like the 300 has. If it does have you tried the tube output.

I am running a TriVista Tube DAC with a Theta Data Basic II Transport with execelent results.

Otherwise you have received some good advise so far in the previous posts.