Congested sound, new speakers?

Hello out there,

I hope I can use your collective insight, wisdom, and experience to help me out. I am currently running a system comprised of a modified Pioneer DV-525 running into a Z-Systems RDP-1 digital preamp/EQ, then into a Camelot Uther V2 MkIII DAC, directly into a Bel Canto EVO 200.2, powering Thiel CS1.5 speakers, all strung together with DH Labs wire (D-110 digital, BL-1 II balanced interconnects, and Q-10 speaker wire).

My tastes in music have changed over time and I find myself listening less to modestly dynamic, all acoustic music (folk, jazz, solo classical) and more to music with electric instrumentation (fusion, jambands, progressive rock)with sustained high dynamics. While very good with the acoustic material, my system sounds a bit congested and confused with the more complex material. I suspect that it is the small Thiels, but I would like your opinion on different speaker options, considering my shift in listening material. I haven't been speaker shopping for awhile and work has kept me too busy to read much of the audio journals. What do you think? New speakers worth investigating? I am sure I could use some proper room treatment as well, but that is an area that I am not particularly familiar with. Any and all suggestions and advice would be appreciated; I just need to get a handle on some reasonable options! Thanks in advance. . .
Oh, I also thought I should add that I listening in a near-field arrangement, in an equilaterial trangle setup, about 7 feet from the speakers. That is the best my current room allows, but I will be moving to a larger room, about 12x19x8 within a few months, so that is the more critical space to work with. Thanks again. . .
Stereogen: Before you go runnin' around looking at speakers (which might be fun come to think of it. I understand that you have good speakers now. When you move into your new space you'll be able to audition for the right speaker. I have the same arrangement as you. Try working with toe in/out. I'm sure placement will give you a change. I also put 10lb dumbbell weight on top of my monitors. That created a huge difference in resolution. Don't know why. Last week I bought a 30"x80" piece of acoustic foam and secured it behind my listening spot. That one tweak changed the whole setup. It tends to tone down the sizzle of the tweater and bring out the mids and lows. Just my 2 cents but I would work with what I have until you make the move. Good luck.

BTW: I'm looking at the DH Lab Q-10 and wonder what other cables you've tried and your impression.

What modified Pioneer 525? Stan Warren? What you describe could be many things, including the DAC and/or the DVD player (jitter, etc). Do you use power conditioning? Dirty power is another possibility. When did this problem start (when you bought the speakers)?
stereojen, I feel your pain. My present listening arrangement involves a similar nonoptimal 'near field' situation. Glad for you the option of a move is available. I will need a wrecking ball to solve my problem. I too have found those thiels to perform the way you say they do. Nice little speakers until you try to give them a some gas, then they can fall apart. Mostly at higher listening levels though.

Sounds like you want to do some rockin. Hard to say without knowing more about things like budget, but my PSB silver's would do it. They are not for everybody, but IMO are a great value, comparing favorably to many speakers costing much more. You could drive these easily with your amp, and they don't look too bad either. These would also work well in the new bigger room. Good on both heavy stuff and for the lighter detail work.

There's about a billion other speakers that would perform well to your needs. The PSB's are just what I have chosen until I can afford that $multi-k set of aerials I been wantin. Check out the stratus line at

Hope it helps.
your problem may be caused by a myriad of variables, the most simple being the source material. have you ever heard the discs you describe playing through your system as "congested" sound righteous on another system? if so, what was it that was different between that system and yours? why do you suspect your speakers and not your electronics or frontend? the fact is that many systems play acoustic/jazz/small ensemble pieces well but fall flat with more complex, well-recorded symphonic or rock software. indeed, to get it all generally requires the best of all components. ("best" does not necessarily="most expensive.") sad but, IMO at least, true. -kelly
try the following before making any other changes. if you have never tried these aftermarket devices, i think you are in for a very enjoyable surprise. any device is hit or miss and system dependent. you won't know what is right for you until you try it. anti resonant devices under components like polycrystal or black diamond racing etc. speaker cones like polycrystal etc. ac power cables, like jps or bmi virtue etc. power conditioners like api or ps audio etc. all will make a change, it's up to you to decide what you like. it will be worth the effort and $.
good hunting!!

Apparently, Stereojen, from the change in your tastes in music, you are growing younger. How the heck are you doing that?

Not exactly. I was raised in a household with only "proper" music and had been a jazz and classical snob until my mid 20s. Since I've opened up my perspective a little, I found all of these interesting records, some of which *gasp* were performed on electric instruments!!! Thanks everyone for your advice and insight. I now have a great many avenues to explore. I am not sure about the speaker search; there is obviously a lot more I can do and will do in the new room. I have actually been thinking about trying the Magnepan 1.6. I know I would have problems with them in my current tiny room, but hopefully my bigger room will be more accomodating. Thanks again. Keep the ideas coming, if you have them!!!
My theory is that the Thiel 1.5s will cause you to head towards more electronic/dynamic music and away from acoustic music, because that is where the 1.5s work best. One thing I would try is changing those cables. The DHLabs are OK for the price but a step up in expenditure will open things up a lot (been there, done the DHLabs - they congest the music). Otherwise, I reckon Kelly's suggestions are very relevant.
I think that you may have nailed the problem by singling out the Theils. Although, Theils' products are very well designed from a time/phase perspective, all of those elements he uses in the crossover may contribute to that "confused" sound. (This is because your amplifier cannot properly "lock in" the speakers'drivers, through its ouput devices' dampening factor capability). Ironically Thiel is not the only audiophile company that uses very complex crossovers with a gizilion caps etc. But guess what?....those other speakers have also been characterized as sometimes congested and confused. After analyzing your system list, I feel that your speakers are NOT in the same league as your other components. In my opinion, you should upgrade this part of your system, to fully realize its music making potential.
Actually, the cure is probably not with your system but medical. Have you tried the over-the-counter medication Contac taken about 45 minutes before your listening session. Incredible coherence, a vast soundstage, performers so lifelike you begin to cry, and this from a Bose table radio!
Give Chris at Legacy Audio a call. They make a number of differrent speakers as well as electronic equipment. I looked around and asked questions for 2 1/2 years before finding Legacy, I would not buy a speaker from any one else. Hope this helps.

P.S. the number is 1-800-283-4644, tell Chris wcwhisper sent you.
stereojon, i woodn't do *anything* w/yer current set-up until ya move. *none* of the negative comments about your thiels are true, imho, except chstob's comment that they can fall apart when pushed. but, this is cuz they want *lotsa* power, something that yer bel-canto prolly has.

*but*, there *is* one ting that thiels *cannot* do well that hasn't been mentioned: they make wery poor nearfield speakers. this is due to their 1st-order 6db/octave x-overs, & their relatively large (vertically) front baffles. thiels need lotsa room around them, & ewe should be *at least* 10' away from them for the sound to properly integrate at the listening position. then they will sing, w/acoustic, electronic, or any other music ewe throw at 'em.

bottom line - wait 'til yure in yer gnu listening space, where they can be properly set-up, before ya make any system changes. your gnu space should work fine, w/the possible caveat that, at 12' wide, i'd recommend sound absorption treatment at the 1st-reflection point at the side walls. if ewe can treat the ceiling's 1st-reflection point, this wood also be helpful...

regards, doug s.

Very good point about near-field listening with Thiels Sedond. Right on. But I don't find the mids of the Thiel 1.5 to be very open, which is what makes them better for electronic than acoustic music in my opinion.
redkiwi, perhaps yure rite about the mids of the 1.5's - i dunno, i'm not familiar w/this specific model. but, i've heard several of their other models, and they all had a *family* sound. i own a pair of 3.5's, now in a secondary system. i've never heaard *any* of 'em that dint sound open in the mids, & as stereojon seems to like 'em for acoustic stuff even w/his present near-field listening set-up, if i were him, i'd give 'em one more shot in the gnu room prior to trying someting different. ackshully, *regardless* of how his system is now, going into that room, from his current one, i'd wait until the move before making any changes. listining, stereojon? ;~)

doug s.

I'm listening. I thought there was a pretty good chance that the near field listening situation might be the root of the problem. I might still want to make a speaker change, add some room treatment, and experiment with tweaks, but, like several of you have suggested, I really need to get to know the room first. I should be able to give myself 10-12 feet from my listening position to the speakers, so things might improve a lot. Thanks for all of the thoughts, guys. Love to hear any more thoughts you might have.
Sedond, the 1.5 is quite different from the 3.5, 2.3 and 3.6 which as you say are all fairly open in the mids. The 1.5 sounds somewhat pinched by comparison.