Confused By A Transport Upgrade

Dear Forum Members:

I just got a used Theta Pearl CD transport on monday. The change in sound from my previous transport[CD player actually] is so dramatic, I don't know what to make of it. In the course of trying to building a nice musical system I've experimented with different speaker cables and interconnects and isolation tweaks, but nothing has made such a dramatic change as adding this transport.

My system is comprised of Sim Audio Moon I-5 integrated, Musical Fidelity E60 CD player, Bel Canto DAC 1.1, Sonus Faber Concertinos and ProAc Tablette Signature 50s. I have added these pieces incrementally starting with the MF E60 three years ago, then the Concertinos a year and a half ago. The Moon I-5 arrived last August. I just received the Bel Canto and the ProAcs last month.

Since the beginning my system has always been on the bright side. In order to combat this characteristic I have experimented with different interconnects and digital cables eventually settling on the relaxing Cardas Golden Cross and L-15. I also upgraded DH Labs Silversonic T14 speaker cables to Analysis Plus Oval Nines. These changes have helped somewhat, but still the occasional nasties remained.

The Theta Pearl is a solid piece of gear using the Pioneer stabile platter mechanism with the CDs inserted label side down. Before hooking it up, I played 3 CDs I'm pretty familiar with through the MF just so I could have a fresh taste of the 'ol transport before getting down to business with my new toy. When I started playing the first CD in the Theta I was shocked at the Jekyll and Hyde difference between the two players. In comparison to my MF E60, the Theta is leagues softer, and fuller in the midrange, almost to the point of sounding muffled. CD after CD I kept thinking to myself that I had lost a ton of detail and information.

Now here's my question. Have I become so accustomed to a thin sounding, overly bright, and falsely detailed system so much so, that a well regarded transport such as the Theta Pearl sounds, dare I say wrong to me? I've been searching for a non-fatiguing system for so long, and now that I have it, I yearn for the lifelike energy that some of my CDs exhibited when played through my $500 MF. While it was often thin and bright sounding, it sometimes created spookily real instrumentation and voices.

I'm now contemplating a reverse change in my interconnects, speaker and digital cables. I have a run of Kimber Illuminations D60, so I'll see what that does. Will it restore some life in my system? Maybe all the Cardas are wrong in this setup. Should I change the AP Oval 9s to Silver Ovals?

What have I done wrong? Help!!
My guess is that the Theta is doing a great job..and the
rest of your system has been made a bit soft by some of the
other choices. You might want to try just one change at
a time with some cables..and see where that takes things.
I have had excellent results with the Nordost Silver Shadow
and a stable platter transport. Other thoughts would be
trying Nirvana SL or SX or Wireworld Gold Eclipse
interconnects. A question, did you have the DAC-1.1 from
the start or did you have a DAC-1 upgraded?
Hi Gunbei: The D60 should certainly liven things up a bit (probably a good thing that you held on to it). All of my digital equipment also sounds a bit muted (less detail) when it comes up from a cold start and offers more detail in approx. 3 days (though it does sound better in just 24 hours). I just mentioned, because of this, in the "CA Power" thread, that I always keep the digital stuff powered up (even when changing IC's - I am just very careful when doing so). Perhaps by Thursday or Friday (keep it powered up 7/24) you will be experiencing more detail. Another odd thing about equipment that has recently been shipped is that it seems to arrive with some type of charge to it (maybe static). This is very noticeable to me on recently acquired tubes (which attract dust like a magnet for a few days and then it wears off). Maybe this charge is generated by all of the machinery, sorting belts and scanners involved in transportation (I really don't know) but it is a real phenomena as when I clean the outside of the tubes with anti static wipes (that I also use on my eye glasses) it cuts the startup noise (created by the charge?) almost in half.
Ditto, D-K on the static and regarding the 7/24 power on. With me however, the more beneficial results of power on have been with the DAC rather than the transport... Maybe there's a transport -- DAC mismatch.

You'll know, playing with cables and giving the Pearl time to optimise operation.

Good luck!
Greg: Any tips on how to get rid of the static quickly (other than submerging the gear in water:-). The sound from the tubes drives me nuts, when I start up the amp for that day and a half or so and I always wonder if it is harming the tweeters.
Thanks friends. I appreciate the advice. I think part of the problem is with me, and getting used to the new sound. I intend to experiment with cables as much as I can.

Also, as far as the issue of leaving equipment powered on, I always leave my transport and DAC on together. Although in this case it wouldn't be a fair comparison because I just received the Theta yesterday. The Sim Audio is always in stand by.

For now, I'll play with the cables and take some time to get use to the new sound. Also, I forgot to note that the imagining while centered, is very vague. Just as unfocused as the sound. We'll see what happens.
Gunbei, what effect did the D-60 digital cable make? Please report back on this forum and let us know. Thanks!
I wonder if there is something wrong with the Pearl. A few years ago, when auditioning various transports, I had a similar experience with an Audio Alchemy transport that coincidentally used the Pioneer stable platter. The sound was so dull and so lifeless that I concluded there must be something wrong with the transport and I sent it back. If you have already bought the Pearl used, you may want to contact Theta to see if you can have the it examined for possible defects.
Lak, I'll definitely try the D60 cable tonight and report back. Joe, that exact thought had crossed my mind. I thought it prudent maybe to just send the unit in anyway and have it looked at and tuned up. More later...
Another thought Gunbei is to clean the connection. Perhaps the person you bought it from was using the XLR output and hadn't used the connection (RCA or BNC) that you are using. A dirty connection could definitely give you below par performance. A second thought is to try different tweeks to decouple the transport from the rack. I have found that my Theta DaViD decoupled, sounds better than the stock rubber feet.
Hey Gunbei, it blows my mind that a transport could make a night and day difference. Don't get me wrong, I think the transport makes a difference, but a subtle one, not that kind of one. From my experiences with the other equipment you listed, I'm kinda surprised you hear bright sound. I've auditioned or owned the Sim Audio amps, Bel Canto Dacs and the Sonus Faber Concertinos and find all three of them leaning towards the warm, smooth camp, not the bright, detailed camp at all. I also know Cardas to be smooth, the DH labs can be a bit bright, I'm not familiar with the Analysis Plus though. Overall I would expect this system to be smooth, maybe lacking in detail, I'm shocked to hear you think it was lacking in warmth from the start. I'm not familiar with the MF you were using as a transport either. What are your musical tastes? With the equipment you list, I doubt you have become accustomed to thin, brittle sound. If the Theta is not defective, you may have too much smoothness. You may rather look for a Proceed or Mark Levinson transport, as they lean more to the detail, without brightness side. I'll also agree with the leave 'em burning 24/7 camp, this could solve your problems. Good luck.
Like it or not, an audio system is like a new pair of shoes; it takes a while to break in. Is it that the component needs to get reaquainted with the electrons, or is it that psychologically we need time to adjust to the difference in presentation? Rapid changing of components breeds...rapid changing of components. Live with your system for a few months, enjoy it. Try some CDs that didn't sound very good on your old rig. Perhaps the new presentation will mesh well with their sonics and allow you to better comprehend the perfomance. If all else fails, go analog. Detail with warmth.
I am not sure if it is the audio system that needs time to break in or perhaps it is us and our ears that do the breaking in. Sometimes, I have listened to a new component and been happy with it right away. Other times especially if like in this case itis the difference between bright and smooth, it takes a little time to appreciate it. I am not sure about this.
One thing I have been impressed with after reading these discussions for a bit now is how objectively complex as well as how subjectively complex the whole thing really is.
While i could be wrong about this, i think that the MF E-60 is actually a Marantz unit in terms of the actual "guts". Could be mistaken though, as i'm simply going on what someone else had mentioned somewhere down the line. Sean
I used to have the first Bel Canto Dac 1 and from memmory I remember that it sounds close to the warm and smooth side like somebody mentioned above. Partnered with a Theta Pearl transport and Sim Audio which also sounds towards the same warm and smooth camp, and a tiny bit rolled off highs, I can imagine how it sounds like it's lacking in detail and too laidback. I would agree with getting rid of the Cardas for starters,try some fast silver cables (Alpha Core Saphire,Siltech's). The D-60 is good I think. Brass points (the heavier the better,ie. Mapleshade tripple points) under the Theta Pearl will help also.I hope this helps.
D-K: I use an "antistatic pistol" (the kind we used for LPs in the old times) on the casing and the cabling (including PCs) -- during system operation (low volume). But, my gear is ss: I would be wary of using the gun on the tubes during operation. There shouldn't be a problem on the cabling and the PCs, though.

Alright folks, I'm back. I appreciate all the great advice immensely.

Last night, I took out the Cardas L-15 and swapped it for the Illuminations D60. Before doing this I listened one more time with the Cardas still in the chain to make sure I wasn't imagining things. Yep, it still sounded like I was listening through a thick plastic bag. The Cardas were hard to remove, but the D60s as always, slid right and stopped with a positive click. No matter what I connect the D60 to, it always has that same perfect fit.

I fired up the same Diana Krall CD I had just listened to a minute ago with the L-15 and...Voila!! Clear, beautiful piano and that lovely voice of hers! My system never sounded this good. The overall presentation was still sometimes just slightly tipped up, but maybe it's because I was playing the dang thing so loud. I spent a couple hours playing with isolation tweaks, and I ended up with a completely different
scheme. The DAC 1.1 sounded much more open without the BrightStar Little rock beneath it. I ended the evening with Black Diamond Racing #3 Cones and Pucks under the Theta, which settled the sound some without deadening it. In the past, the BDR #3 Cones have always over-deadened the sound of my source or amp, but not the Theta.

This morning I fired up the same CD just to make sure I wasn't dreaming. And yes, it was just as nice. So I thought, "the D60 did the trick!" Just to be sure, I swapped the L-15 back into the system, and guess what? It sounded good too. So what does this tell you? Where did all that heavy sonic fog come from? Improperly installed digital cable? Freshly fired up component not quite up to speed? Static build up in shipping?

I'm sure somewhere within all the ideas posted here lies the reason[s] for what I experienced. The Theta Pearl with the Bel Canto is very much to my liking. I can only surmise that the reason for my experience was operator error. Or could it be that plugging and unplugging the cables helped to discharge any static build up in the coax plug? After all, the previous owner had this unit just sitting around.

What do you folks think? And thanks again for your very helpful suggestions.
I should also mention that Ed Deitemeier with Theta Digital has been extremely helpful throughout this experience. He always and promptly answered my questions and offered suggestions of his own. His advise reinforced the advise of my fellow forum members.

I'm now very happy with the performance of the Theta Pearl. I consider this case closed. I promise to do more trouble shooting and investigation in the future, before panicking and doing my Chicken Little impression for the Agon crowd. Now I'm set to investigate the Neuance shelves that have worked so well for Dekay.
Well guys (and gals?), this will be a bit of a tangent..but
stay with me. We have all had our differences of thought
and even, sometimes, ruffled feathers. But when someone
has a problem, the members of this site treat it as a
problem of their own..and come to the aid of a friend,
I want to suggest something that may improve some systems
out there more, much more, than any upgrade can. If you
have cable TV comming into your home, odds are that your
AC ground has DC voltage on it. Most cable TV installers
run a ground wire to your AC pipe that is on the outside
of your home rather than running an earth-ground. The
problem is that my (and I think most) cable feeds have real
problems attached to the ground..and putting this "mess"
on your AC ground has changed the sound (and possibilities)
of your system for ever..unless you change it.
To prove it..., listen to a favorite song, then go to where
your cable comes into you home and disconnect the coax lead
AND take the cable companies ground wire off of the pipe
they have attached it to. Now go and listen to the same
song again. See.
Gunbei: Excellent. Sounds like it was just a not so good connection or maybe static. I think that I remember the gun(s) that Greg mentions (seems to me that they had a piece of quartz in them or something like that). I will ask a few oldsters I know if they have one that I can try out.
Good for you, Gunbei! D-K, there *must* be someone selling these "guns" -- radio-shack, maybe? Indeed, they do have something (mine doesn't specify) and crackle when they meet static electricity.
Zerostat 59.95 at Audio Advisor. Don't tweak a system without one (unless you live in a way humid climate)
Thanks for the product name Pls1. I will try to find it elsewhere though as I have decided not to do business with AA in the future.
Whatjd, Interesting comment. I just moved and after the satelite was installed I noticed the system didn't sound quite as good. I kind of chalked it up to " it's a new room, just getting used to it" I also noticed the other day while mowing the lawn that the ground wire for the satelite is tied into the house ground. How can I isolate this? The system runs on 2 dedicated lines, but the ground is common.I definately have to put a meter on it to see if it has d.c. Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.
For anyone that read my proceed with caution.
Star grounding, and other thoughts that have been mentioned
on grounding, are all trying to take care of system ground
noise(or worse), or trying to get rid of ground loop
problems. The concern, however, is to not cause a different
ground potential between components that could result in
a shock potential. So, what to do? Even though I have
a background in consumer electronics..and electrical repair
in the Air Force...I cannot, via internet long distance,
make sure that anything anyone does is safe. My problem
in my system was that the cable feed was grounded to my
electrical conduit comming into my house..and that my cable,
like many, had quite a bit of DC voltage on it. I removed
their grounding strap...ran a real earth ground for the
cable input..and installed the Mondial Magic behind my
TV for good measure..and my Stereo(there's an old term)
sounds much, much better for it. For David and all above,
do proceed with caution and/or get some advice/help from
someone that find an electrician that's
into the high-end...if you can. The only advice that I
think is with getting ground concerns taken
care of before they are attached to your electical feed..not get that cable feed or satelite feed earth
grounded to bleed off any DC or other noise before it is
introduced to your electrical system...rather than the
"cableguy" just attatching it to your electrical..all that
is doing is making sure there is a common ground..and no
difference of shock concern..but it is not
addressing if or if not the cable or satelite has anything
on it's ground that should not be there/or bleed off before
the feed is introduced to your system in the first place...
But...and that's a BIG BUTT...I cannot over state how many
of you out there have systems that sound a GREAT deal poorer
than they should because of ground noise/DC voltages on the
circuits you have your system connected to.
I would second Whatjd's comments and add to them. I have a Digital Music Express satellite set up to receive their 110 channels of music. In addition to the grounding issues, I have the receiver on a seperate AC line with heavy AC filtering. However, what was necessary to keep the pile of RF and other electrical grunge out of my system was converting the coax digital out to ATT optical with a Theta Linque. This stops any electrical grunge from getting into my main system. It makes a big difference.
Whatjd: If the cable is not a part of the "stereo", can this still make a difference? I assume that our electrical panels are connected to a different earth ground than the cable (which is a cold water pipe as you mentioned), but will double check. The "cable" just runs from the outside box to the TV's (we don't even have the boxes as we have the basic service).
The cable need not be part of your stereo to cause sonic
problems. If the cable has DC voltage on it's ground..and
they use your AC systems ground..usually a conduit or
sometimes a water can place this DC voltage on
every AC plug ground in you, all you have to do
is plug an item in to a then have this DC voltage
in your system... Again, get help...wish I was there to help
but I'm don't do anything that you are unsure of..
but it is worth checking. Easiest way is to have someone
that knows what they are doing check the ground of your
wall plugs to see if there is DC present..using a VTVM..
but AGAIN,...have someone qualified do it. VTVM stands
for vacuum tube volt meter....
For what it's worth I had started a thread some time back
warning about the concern of cable ground DC voltage getting
into/on your sound system..didn't go much of anywhere, which
is too bad. The advent of all of these home theater systems
and cable and dish receivers..etc.. has seriously degraded
the sound of many(most?) peoples systems..and they don't
even know it. I believe many people spend much time and
money trying to get better sound...and are swimming upstream
because of a large system handicap.. It may be worth some
other member(s) to try to spread the word...
Hi Jim: It just dawned on me that the outlet that I am using at this time tests as having an open ground (which is none at all I think). We have another line going to the living room that also is not properly grounded. I have not gotten around to checking all of the outlets yet to see if it is just a loose connection (down the line including the breaker box) or if there is an actual break in the line itself (in this case a new one will have to pulled from the electrical panel). The last electrician that we had over (hired by the landlord) did not fix diddly (as my testing of his work with a RS line tester showed). One of the outlets that he installed was just hooked up wrong and did have a ground when I wired it correctly. We do need a "good" electrician as the wires are either all white or are the wrong color for what they are supposed to be and I will heed your advise as far as pro help goes (I have one outlet with 5 leads, two red and three white, for crying out loud).