Bolero:why can't my system reproduce snare well?

For those of you who don't follow my posts religiously, I recently purchased a pair of Martin Logan SL3's. I love them; they especially excel with voices. However, last night, I was listening to Bolero, and the snare sounded terrible. It sounded muffled and faint. I adjusted the settings, and nothing helped. I am using a MC275 and c2300, so I assume the problem is with the speakers. Any suggestions, ideas? Thank you in advance.
What kind of tubes are in the MC275, and how old are they? I found that 6550 type tubes were not that great at reproducing snare drum when I used them in my Jadis amps, though perhaps not to the extent you're describing. I would not suspect the speakers at this point.
Are you sure it is a good recording?
I am using the tubes that came with the amp. I have the most recent version of the MC275. They are six months old.

I am not sure it is a good recording, but the rest of the instruments sound good.
The system or the recording might be out of absolute polarity.
Is Bolero your reference recording that you know intimately and have heard 100's of times? If not, don't base a system's performance on one sample recording. How does it sound on other recordings?

Consider taking your source recording to a trusted dealer for a test on their flagship rig? You might even be exposed to your next step in this fabulous hobby.
The stock Mac tubes are OK (better than when the first of the current version 275's first came out in 2004) but you can do way better. Nevertheless, they should still reproduce snare drums well, and unless there is something terribly wrong with the ML's, like loose diaphragm(s) that's not it either. I would try and find other recordings with similar material, unless you can say you've heard this Bolero on other systems and it sounded great (which you didn't say ;~)

I use a 275 w/ my ML's and it sounds fantastic (see my system)
Time to upgrade!!
It tells that you need larger power for your speakers. Ideally they'll sound great with 4...500Wpc.
"Are you sure it is a good recording?"

CD or Vinyl? Use a recording known to be high SQ; try a modern-era studio jazz recording that produces a crisp snare and tight bass with good dynamic range. Or maybe you have a reference CD?
Which recording is it, and how familiar are you with this particular recording?

I have multiple copies of various orchestral works, many done with minimal miking. You get a realistic soundstage that way, but you're at the mercy of the venue's acoustics and the engineer's microphone placement when it comes to hearing certain details the way you expect them to be. One, for example, is the Overture to the Nutcracker Suite. In some recordings I can distinctly hear the triangle that accentuates the melody at times, and on other recordings it's so faint I wouldn't know it was there if I didn't specifically listen for it.

Do you have other recordings that you know to have well-recorded snare drum? For classical music, one pretty good example would be the crescendo toward the end of Debussy's Nocturne, "Fetes".

Here is an extended and detailed Stereophile review of the ML SL3's. Notice the amps the reviewer chose, which include Conrad-Johnson Premiers Eleven and Twelve plus a couple of Krells and a Plinius. Maybe you can gain a little insight from the review about characteristics of the SL3s, setup, placement, and best matching amplification. Toward the end of the review he gave the SL3s high marks for reproduction of orchestral percussion.
Are you paying attention to vibration control of the speakers?
Upon what are they resting? I have found this issue to be important on
my Prodigys. Play with this aspect, and it might benefit the whole sound spectrum...

Also... are all of the screws securely tightened? How about toe in of the speakers, their position in the listening room, and your position when you are listening to music? Raising my seating height makes a difference, for me!
The recording quality is not the question, but the mic placement. An orchestral recording with minimalist/distant miking may give you the sound of the snare drums that you are reproducing - try a nice Jazz trio
Ditto on the recording quality being suspect. Snares(and
drums in general) are difficult to record, regarding the
capture of their dynamic potential/impact. The vinyl version
of this album was recorded Direct-to-Disc and is now almost
impossible to obtain: (
The drum tracks, on the ordinary CD, are still better than most
recordings. Especially, for seeing if your system will
reproduce the impact of a drum set. I haven't heard the DXD iteration.
To Lowrider and Rodman99999, I was listening to a vinyl recording. I will try several other recordings. These speakers sound good on base, but also seem to be lacking on cymbals as well. I am, as I write this, listening to "something else" by cannonball Adderley (with Miles), and the hi-hats sound faint and muted as well. Thank you all for the insightful comments.
as I write this, listening to "something else" by cannonball Adderley (with Miles), and the hi-hats sound faint and muted as well.

Elegal, great music, but not a good reference to test your system. Back in the day the engineers used a minimal amount of microphones to record a session. There was a mic for the piano, a couple over the drum kit and a room mic; I'm just giving an example of mic techniques back then. Today, each drum and the high-hat would have their own mic plus 2 overhead for the cymbals, each player would have their own mic resulting in a clear, crisp sound; a very different sound. (the trumpet most likely will have a "raspy" sound rather than the more pleasant open sound.

That's why you should use a reference CD or as I suggested, a modern studio jazz recording.

BTW, I love the open sound from that era.
To be clear; the medium to which you listen(vinyl, CD, master tape) is not as important as the mic technique(as mentioned by Lowrider), Recording Engineer's ears, mastering or pressing. There are more poor recordings out there, than high quality/accurate ones, of drum sets(IMO).
Start with the basics:
ESL loudspeakers are not known for their ability to handle forceful transients.
I second the comments about recording technique and quality.

Also, to be sure that nothing simple is being overlooked, are you using the 4 ohm taps on the amplifier? If not, that is undoubtedly part of the problem.

Also, given that the impedance of the speakers descends to very low values in the upper treble region (as is typical of electrostatics), if your speaker cables are particularly long and also have highish inductance per unit length that could be a contributing factor as well.

-- Al
Are you comparing to how this recording sounded with your previous (Genesis?) speakers? Do you notice this with other recordings with snare drums as well? Also, noticed you were asking about speakers you could place close to the wall in a previous thread. Do you have the MLs placed in close proximity to the wall? If so maybe try pulling them further into the room just to see if that changes anything, and maybe also try playing around with toe-in (not sure how that works with MLs though)?

As for recordings, if you have it try Patricia Barber's Modern Cool -- if the snare sounds like mush to you on that recording then that may be a concern. That said, I do find my friend's MLs project sounds like snare drums in a slightly more diffuse manner and with a little less snap and drive than my dynamic speakers, but it still sounds good and realistic but just in a different way. Best of luck with this and hope this helps somewhat.
Here's how I test my preamp, amp, speakers, and cables: I bought a drum kit, flat microphones, good digital recorder, and recorded the kit. Play it back. Truth is truth. I do the same with other instruments.
Kiddman; I hope you are using your drum kit for more than testing your system. (From one drummer to another).
Did you read the Stereophile Review linke in my previous post? On page 4, Wes Phillips takes about 1/2 page to describe and lament how difficult it was to get ideal placement for these speakers.

Since they are dipoles, I can see where placement could create a self-cancellation effect and cause certain frequency ranges or overtone patterns to recede or disappear.
You might want to check out another post, here...

So... what do you use under your speakers?

Started on 1-14-13 by Nobrainer
DWELLER: what is a forceful transient?
All: can you please recommend a good reference LP? I currently do not have a cd player hooked up to my system.
Dear AL, I am using the 4 ohm taps, and 3 meter speaker cable.
I now place the speakers approx. 2.5 feet from the frown wall when listening.
"50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" by Paul Simon has a lot of prominently featured snare drum rolls in the mix .
Also intro to "Take the Money and Run" by Steve Miller Band.
The best way to learn what a, "forceful transient" sounds like, is to find a live music venue and listen to the drummer, as he warms up.
You need to provide more information for suggestions to be relevant. Have you ever heard "Bolero" live? Are you aware that the snare is supposed to be played as softly as possible and slowly gets louder only as other instruments join in? Often, the snare is situated at the rear of the orchestra so it will, in fact, sound "distant"; even later in the piece when the orchestra is playing fff. Now, you feel that it also sounds "muffled". Do the string pizzicato (plucked) notes have the appropriate snap? Do the upper winds and brass have the appropriate brilliance? If they do, then it's unlikely that the problem is your system. You may be expecting the kind of snare sound that is often heard in pop or jazz recordings where a mic is placed very close to the snare. Most well recorded classical recordings will not provide that kind of sound.
Frogman makes an excellent point and I agree with him except for one caveat; that most modern day performances of "Bolero" would be close-mic'd. The overall sound is determined by the record label producers (many classical labels have a 'house sound"), in conjunction with the engineers. The top conductors can also be involved in how their orchestra should sound.

Here's an example of Bolero with a well defined percussion section. The snare does start as pianissimo and builds to forte, but it is very prominent in the mix.

So the question is which recording are you listening to? A good suggestion by Frogman is to also listen to the string pizzicato and the woodwinds.
Lowrider makes very good points about the role of the conductor and producer in determining the sound of the orchestra and solo instruments (in the case of a piece like Bolero). Sometimes the end result of a producer's "artistic license" can be a good thing; other times, as in the Dudamel/Vienna Youtube clip, not so good. Yes, the snare is very well defined in that clip, but it is unlike anything one is likely to hear at a performance. The balance between the snare and opening flute solo is totally wrong. The players may be playing a true pianissimo but it doesn't sound that way due to the miking. It is true, as Lowrider points out, that most modern recordings of the piece will be close(r) miked; an unfortunate reality from the standpoint of faithfulness to the score, even if sometimes sounding "better defined". Not even sitting on stage will one hear a snare sound that way when the player is playing a true pianissimo.

In this other performance, notice what the snare drum player has done which is fairly common: he has placed a small towel on the drumhead in order to further mute the sound (he also is situated further upfront within the orchestra); it is possible that is what the OP is hearing as "muffled". This is closer to what one is likely to hear sitting in the audience at a live performance:
Great points by Frogman and Lowrider, as might be expected. I would add one other thought, which is that putting all other factors aside the nature of our hearing mechanisms is such that a snare drum will tend to sound at least a little bit "muffled" when played softly, in comparison to when it is played loudly. The reason being the Fletcher-Munson Effect; i.e. the sensitivity of our hearing to upper treble frequencies (as well as deep bass frequencies), relative to its sensitivity to mid frequencies, declines as volume decreases.

-- Al
A further and probably more significant point than the one I just mentioned: Take a look at these graphs, which are presented in this article. The high frequency content of a snare drum hit, relative to the lower frequency content, is much greater when the instrument is played loudly compared to when it is played softly.

As the article says, "the harder you strike a snare drum, the louder it becomes, and the more energy is radiated at higher frequencies."

As Frogman noted, in "Bolero" the snare "gets louder only as other instruments join in."

-- Al
Great article, Al; interesting read and thanks for sharing. Would be interesting to see similar graphs showing the effect on high frequency content relative to low frequency content at different distances from the microphone. On a lighter note:
Elegal: Play "Higher Love" on Steve Winwood's "Back in the High Life" album.
Lots of forceful transients...
That's a good find, Frogman, Muti with the Philadelphia playing Bolero as it was intended to be. And it is a modern-day recording.

Yes, the snare is very well defined in that clip, but it is unlike anything one is likely to hear at a performance.

I haven't seen Bolero live, but in the case of the Vienna performance, it's true that when seated in the audience, the piece would sound completely different than the recording. (do to the fact that no mic's are used in the concert hall when played live; they are only being fed to the audio recorders).

Having said that, I'll bet that Elegal's recording is similar to the Muti performance. Even the sound from the woodwinds is from a distance and evenly mixed with the snare.
I don't know how over the years the engineering took priority over keeping the integrity of the performance. Since the mid 1970s the mic's were getting placed closer to the instruments and then progressed to adding even more mic's.

I would much rather hear classical music recordings sound natural and open rather than unbalanced and up close. With today's technology, it is possible to use minimal miking and still have good detail.

I just realized I'm ranting, so the bottom line in this thread is to use a reference recording and not Ravel's Bolero.
The Evelyn Glennie version of Bolero on THis CD prominently features percussion instruments, including snare and drums, compared to many others.
A lot of good points made by Frogman, Al and Lowrider (and I love Frogman's lighter note link). One thing that was asked earlier but hasn't been addressed by the OP, I think, is has he used this recording as a reference before he got the Martin Logans, and did it sound different then. If not, I think he needs to listen to familiar recordings to see if the problem might reside in the speakers or somewhere else.
Here's a Bolero to consider: Jesus' Lopez-Cobos conducting the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra on Telarc. I haven't heard it but the review I read seems like the highest recommendatino possible.

The review was written by Bert Whyte, co-founder and recording engineer for Everest Recordings. His review recalled when he heard the New York Phil play Bolero and it gave him goosebumps and raised the hair on the nape of his neck. After that early experience, he heard Bolero played several times, but never had that physical reaction again until he played the Telarc/Lopez-Cobos/Cin'ti Symphony Orch. rendition on his home stereo.

Telarc recorded symphonies with three omnidirectional microphones, and Cincinnati's Music Hall (where it was recorded) is one of the best acoustical venues in the US. Here it is.
FROGMAN, I have heard Bolero live many times. I frequently attend Davies Hall to hear the SF symphony. This year, they played Bolero on opening night, and the recollection of that performance is still very vivid. That performance was the main reason for my lack of satisfaction when listening to Bolero on my stereo.

Well, if you recall it live in a good venue, then you have an excellent frame of reference for what it can sound like.

Unfortunately, recordings seldom sound exactly like any particular live performance. So many factors impact what you hear live and what you hear playing a recording, including production related factors!!

USually simple 2 or three mike recordings have the best shot at delivering somwthing that most resembles what might be heard live. Have not heard it but the Telarc 3 mike production sounds like a decent bet.

Or if you can find a Bolero on labels known to record in this manner, like vintage Mercury Living Presence, or more modern Dorian or Mapleshade labels, go for it!
I am skeptical that the issue is with the speaker. If you had British box speakers I might understand but a planar or electrostatic should do well on cymbal transients. You indicated the source was LP; what is your turntable, arm and cartridge combination?
Seems to be a simple cabling synergy/mis-match issue to me..
Change a component within a system, more so the speakers - you'll most likely have to
re-finetune to get things to perfect again. Some cables tending toward the rich full side
usually do thicken hence muffled/faint attacks/leading edge of certain instrumentations.

Call the CableCo./your dealer to borrow some and play around a bit (IC, SC, PC -
depending on what you have and are currently using - zoom in on the 'suspect' and try
switching that piece out) I'm quite sure with a little effort your problem could be
overcome quickly this way ie.find that right balance for your system and taste. In my
case, having had similar issue, the swapping of one IC going from dac>pre does the
trick. Good luck.
Elegal, as Mapman says, then you have a good point of reference. Please tell us what recording of Bolero you are listening to; that may be very instructive.
+1 what Bvdiman suggests. I discovered that my system is also very sensitive to cabling - especially HF.
However, last night, I was listening to Bolero, and the snare sounded terrible.... These speakers sound good on bass, but also seem to be lacking on cymbals as well.... All: can you please recommend a good reference LP? I currently do not have a cd player hooked up to my system.
Perhaps one of the others can recommend a good currently available recording of Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kije Suite or Romeo and Juliet ballet excerpts. (All of the versions I have on LP are no longer in print). Snare drum and cymbals are well represented on both.

Frogman, LOL re your "lighter note" link. Thanks!

-- Al