I find that the better the system, the better older recordings and pressings sound. However, the issue is that in comparison to the great recordings, it's more obvious the not-so-good stuff sounds...not as good.
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When I was visiting audio dealers in my search for my current pair of main speakers, before entering the sound room, the salesman asked if I preferred "analytic" or "musical" speakers, an interesting question. My preference was for "musical".
I found that some really excellent speakers but what might be called "analytic" (or highly "resolving") would make some of my favorite music un-listenable.
I ended up with a pair of Focal Sopra No2's. I've been very happy with those.
Yeah noromance, I used to think my older pressings sounded really good but not so much now. I am even finding myself picking up used cds of pop/ rock stuff because my Esoteric player makes em sound great. As an old "vinyl rules" guy this bugs me. But the fact is that my cd sound has mostly caught up to the vinyl I guess. Not ditching vinyl, I love the sound for sure. Thanks .
Your list of gear is exceptional in terms of quality playback ... some recordings can sound flat and a bit lifeless.
Anything more specific ... ??? Something must be souring the playback.
Joni Mitchell’s Albums / Recordings in general tend to blow me away whether digital or analog!
Switch to the Integrated 509x Phono Pre ... get another set of ears on the case!
So one thing that seems to always shock audiophiles:
Studio equipment and trends has changed a great deal over time.
The mixing/mastering engineer in 1970s was not using the same benchmark systems as they are in 2020's. Even if they were, I guarantee that they are different than what you own. There is no perfect, reference system. The best we can do ( IMVHO ) is to shoot for neutral, which sounds good with most music, and adjust with tone controls as the need arises.
Alternatively, we can buy a separate system for each record.
The choice is yours.
I will say that too many audiophiles attempt "revealing" when it's really "more treble" which is fine, as a personal preference, but you will hit that too much treble more often than a more neutral system.
In either case, good tone controls, and those in the Luxman's are excellent, are your friend. Either engage them judiciously or stop listening to recordings you no longer like to listen to.
Erik, The only problem with your solution is that the range of the equalizers/tone controls may not really affect the 'offending' frequencies. For example upper mid range brightness, a common illness of CD's and a lot of electronics are not really addressed by HF tone controls. What one needs is a tone for the mid range control as well as turn overs for cut off of the effect of bass and treble. Not many units have these, but they have been around for a long time, if fact back into the 70's. Perhaps a lot of what we hear now is an old(er) problem with new ears and new equipment.
Erik, The only problem with your solution is that the range of the equalizers/tone controls may not really affect the 'offending' frequencies.
I'd like to know what reasonable solution you are suggesting is better, more cost effective or more realistic.
Don't let "perfect" get in the way of "very good."
E, FWIW on the cheap but effective side that little Schitt Loki can work well for simple tone control of bass, lower mid range, upper mid range and treble. It ain't sophisticated but it works. I use one in a headphone system (i.e. headphones, source and amp). Many years ago I had a Perreaux with bass/mid-range/highs with filters. Still comes up on EBay now and then. Used it with my old system 'til I figured out how to really set one up properly.
Erik, Sorry about your response to my two posts. Did I step on your toes by merely explaining to your audience something they might want to consider in making a choice of what kind of tone controls might be important to them - not just limit it to bass and treble controls as you have done (for yourself anyway). Anyway, life is too short. I've better things to do with my time.
One of the more impressive results of my system improvement is the way all my records sound much better than ever before. Many that were blah are exciting, and many more that seemed mediocre now sound exceptional. If any are becoming unlistenable, its not because your system is more revealing. Its because its more colored. In other words you're not doing something right. Find it, fix it, and you will see.
Having owned many esls, I would suggest looking at the crossover network and any other signal processing. You may find that there are very low quality capacitors in the signal path (yes, I do mean in speakers costing many thousands), and changing those can take away the unlistenable glare.
I have done this with great success. Any good tech should be able to help you here - don't try it yourself though, because esls can KILL YOU in several ways.
I suggest film and foil caps with polypropylene or styrene dielectric - stay away from teflon, as it too can sound analytical. Or, an active crossover and four channels of amplification. Good luck!
We’ve got a somewhat similar system Joey, I’ve a Luxman 507UX integrated, a VPI Classic 2 turntable with an Ortofon 2M Black cartidge, and Magico A3’ speakers which are quite revealing.
After reading your post, I’m listening right now to some earlier Warner/Reprise Neil Young albums purchased when first released. "Cowgirl in the Sand" off Everyone Knows this is Nowhere and "Cortez the Killer" off Zuma are first up. "Cowgirl" is harsh in the upper frequencies so I can see what you’re saying there. The lower frequencies are not lacking. I played with the treble control as Erik suggested and that seemed to lessen, but not fully correct, the harshness. "Cortez the Killer" was fine, kind of an average recording, but not unlistenable at all.
I’ve lots of Joni Mitchell vinyl records and none of them seem flat sounding or lacking in any way except for one odd German pressing, I can’t recall which. On the contrary, most of her recordings, both vinyl and
CD, seem to be especially well done.
Now there are some real dogs out there that fit your description, like the original Layla and the Stones’ Let It Bleed pressings, which need to be replaced if you love them as any right thinking person should. But the Neil Young’s are definitely not nearly as bad as those two tragically truly un-listenable albums . Maybe your Luxman 509 is that much better at helping reveal things the 507UX masks. It would be interesting if you could borrow CD versions of your Neil Young’s and see if you hear much difference in how they sound. Or take your Neil Young records to a friends to hear them on another system.
Those '70's Reprise recordings I'm guessing you are referencing (NY, Joni, Randy Newman) are sounding pretty decent on my quite revealing system. Sure, there not the very, very best, but they are absorbing and completely musical. Something is amiss, it seems to me, and would benefit from sorting out.
We are prisoners of the recording engineers . Digital from a certain level is more consistent then analog . I to listen more atently to my digital player and get more involved musically speaking .
I could be that my analog setup is not up to the challenge . Project 1expression 2 highly modified with Ortofon cartridge modified by soundsound vs Opera Audio Turandot CD Player .
Which Cardas cables ?
I found that most Cardas cables are Great in most every aspect ,except the upper mids. From my experience some Cardas cables have a slight glare in the upper mids to lower highs area . They have an slightly elevated output in the upper mid to lower high freq range, especially depending how they match up with your equipment.
I am not saying that the Cardas that you are using does, but they just might. .
It is just something to consider
If Joni Mitchell's Blue sounds bad there is a problem. Since newer records sound ok none would have to surmise that something happened to your older records. Played with a bad stylus, stored incorrectly, played recurrent are all possibilities. Buy a new copy of one of your favorites. If it sounds a lot better than you had your answer and you will have to consider replacing the ones you really like.
The better the system the better everything sounds including bad recordings. This excludes damaged records.
Most systems are not at a level to render all recordings as preferentially better. That is why so many complain. If some recordings sound worse, you haven't built a good enough system, and or have made at least one major mistake building it.
"Revealing " is never a problem in a superior system, just as definition, clarity etc. Would you wish to hear less of the recording holistically? Then you are not seeking HiFi, but nostalgia or something else.
In use of ESL speakers in dozens of rigs, and in constant comparison to other genres, the particular system determines which speaker/genre is most revealing. Many poorer systems are built out of mistaken belief that the genre is inherently more revealing. Not in use.
Interesting discussion. Of the many, many thousands of records, clearly some are going to sound better than others. I agree that on a wonderful system, all sound better, but some still sound like s---. But, to me, the “ absolute sound” does not exist. Find a few examples of genres that please you and these can be your references in comparing system changes. But please realize that they, too, are imperfect, just pleasing to your subjective self. If you enjoy spending your listening time to being hypercritical, that is your choice, but I prefer to enjoy each for what they bring, some more than others. There are many great wines, and many great wines taste different than other great wines. Which is right? Maybe not a great analogy, but finding enjoyment in a $20 decent bottle makes life more pleasant than sitting and saying all that is wrong with them compared to a wonderful ‘82 Bordeaux.....just my thoughts....enjoy!
Without some details regarding what unlistenable means I can’t begin to speculate on the source of your dissatisfaction. Does UL mean worn out, excess surface noise, thin brittle sound, lack of dynamics, distortion and fidelity issues? The issue I have seen with gear that really benefits from tweaks like speaker positioning, VTA, sound treatment etc. those same systems are way below par when they are not right. Less refined systems appear to be more robust when poor setup is at play. Much like horses, Thoroughbreds won’t run if the oats aren’t hand sorted but the old cart horse just keeps pulling. No!, I am not recommending downgrading for consistency. I am just pointing out that it is way too easy to make a stellar system sound hopeless but efforts to fix it can pay off royally. Throw in some granularity on what UL means in this instance. I have lots of experience observing great gear performing at levels way below that offered by mediocre consumer grade electronics.
“Revealing,” as so many have implied here seems to be a very subjective term. I agree with D.S. If a classic old recording sounds “unlistenable” it’s not that the system is too revealing. Revealing should mean more detail is exposed, not that an element of distortion is present. A system that is truly revealing should sound good in all but the very worst recordings. Classic LP’s are not in that category.
I agree with most of what is stated above. Over the past 2 years I have built the most resolving system in my life (and I have had a few very, very good systems). There is no doubt that for all recordings you will find differences between them. Some are simply engineered better than others. Some are not so well engineered. You can also end up with an album that was pressed at the end-of-life for that particular stamper. It does make a difference in SQ, and not a good one. Some records of the same album are pressed at different pressing plants which can sometimes use lesser quality vinyl or make pressing runs well beyond the quantity of what that stamper was intended to do. What was the sonic signature the mixing was intended to sound like? A good question. That's just one area of creating the recording that can have an effect on the SQ outcome. And there are many other areas of consideration as well. I personally find that even the poorer recordings are quite listenable, particularly when it is the music I am most interested in. However, for sonic bliss and pleasure, those extremely well recorded and properly engineered albums make it all that much better. The mastering, the plating, the pressing, and the quality of the vinyl material all make quite a grand difference in SQ. For my present and very resolving system, and when playing those lesser SQ albums, I simply keep the volume down a bit. That, for me, is the method of tone control rather than introducing some other device into the signal path. And believe me, on those superb recordings, I most often enjoy them at a rather high SPL and with a very satisfying grin.
I have a number of albums that sounded just OK but have replaced them with bonified quality reissues. For example, the first Dire Straits album, self titled Dire Straits, sounds good but not great. When MoFi did a reissue of that last year using high quality vinyl, superbly mastered, and cut at 45 RPM I bought a copy. Holy cow! That is one fabulous sounding album. Light years beyond my original copy. The examples can go on and on. I hope this helps you. I hope that you find satisfaction.
Do enjoy the music.
Perhaps you may prefer the sound of adding tubes into your audio chain to take the edge off of revealing/analytical and move you more towards musical. Tube phono preamps are a relatively inexpensive option to try such as the Pro-ject Tube Box S2 $400.
4000 vinyl lps , I’m impressed. Seems you are deeply into music playback. Perhaps you should consider digital music streaming services which would greatly open up your musical selection options. Also, if you are the vinyl cover art/info, Google CD “metadata” to see if you want to pursue.
Hi I have the same exact problem.
I have been pulling out even some of my favorite albums. Harsh in the upper frequencies especially when louder. Ralph at Atma-Sphere has been advising me and I now have and love his M-60 amps and MP-3 preamp with phono stage. The latest improvement is a Triplanar SE tone arm which is coming in about a month.
I hope the harshness problem has a lot to do with bad tracking. But Ralph strongly suggested my rack may be a main culprit. I hear amplified sound when I knock on my rack. Maybe a good platform under the TT will be enough.
Ralph has also said that I should be able to listen to all my albums. Unfortunately, I still only listen to about 60% of my collection.
I relate "Reveling" systems to my experiences at symphony concerts.
Balcony center vs. way back at "standing room". Now this is only my experience at the Neil Blaisdell Concert Hall in Honolulu. And I have never sat Balcony Center. But 7 seats off. Yes. Large 3d soundstage. Pin point placement of instruments. I could focus and hear individual instruments. Page turns. The air blowing into a flute. As I recall in school, the only better?, is at the conductor's podium. As we all had to take a turn there a time or 12. ANALYTICAL. I personally don't want to be there for a concert performance. On the other hand....
I had a unfortunate but fortunate circumstance of Standing Room Only. Small image. No pin point resolution. But What a Wonderful Sound! OMG Acoustics and blending of notes I had not heard seated anywhere else. I told this to a friend who performs with the orchestra and fellow audiophile. He often would go up back there and listens. Concurs. "You wouldn't think so, huh?"
It feel it is what your want or goal for your reproduction system.
Compromises and Trade Offs.
Majority of the time I just want to enjoy the music. Home or Hall.
I feel a cartridge or speaker(s) in particular can often create a too analytical presentation (not to be confused with highly detailed and resolving) but including a cart that focuses on record surface noise, pops and clicks is definitely not for me. With the latter it’s often stylus type or merely a set-up shortfall that is the problem.
In my experience it is all about the speaker (character) and that’s often where the issue lies. Keeping in mind that a speaker/room/power amplifier(s) matching is absolutely critical.
In the finer tuning of a kit sounding true to music timbre and being tuneful, having enjoyable colour and pace, realistic sound space, should all be present and in good sonic balanced reproduction.
The problem remains, any mismatch in components, any room/speaker interaction, any set-up missteps could collectively drive the performance to a focus on “the analytical” or an exaggeration of portions of the performance, out of balance regardless of each individual components competency, reputation, or expense.
Tweaks are tweaks (like equipment placement, burn-in/settling, or cleaning up the mains), and though collectively they become a very, very big deal refinement wise, they are not in the fundamentals (laws of physics being one) and can’t possibly fix something that does not have a solid Gestalt impo.
Finding an enjoyable solution is our quest but often comes hard, from personal experimentation based in science, from a trusted knowledgeable friend or three with ears, or a good audio dealer if you can find such a thing. Audio blogs have extreme limits in helpfulness and can lead one down numerous rabbit holes. The great propensity is to just keep spend more money and buy different stuff.
To me, much of this hobby/pastime just sounds a lot like electronic gadgets making noise, not so much like sitting down to a good musical performance. That’s cool unless you have a limited amount of time, or money, or just really love spending your time listening to music.
The difficulty of making bad vinyl recordings acceptable is that the compromise may adversely affect good vinyl recordings. Whether the compromise is acceptable is highly subjective.
Maybe you can live with a compromise cartridge. Or maybe have a separate forgiving cartridge for the poor vinyl recordings. A Multiple tonearm turntable may also be a good idea in your situation.
Swapping out other components (phono stage, preamp, amp, speakers) can be very expensive. Seems that changing your phono stage may be most economical fix (besides exiting this hobby).
I seem to agree with much that has been expressed above toward the idea that beyond subjective tastes, and not to go down the elitist rabbit hole of spending more and more, to (possibly) get incremental improvements. There are two things that ring true from my experience and what has been repeatedly expressed.
...for it’s easy to be good, and it is much more difficult to be great.
1. That with a properly set-up turntable, we should only get very good results across the board from any recording. Granted, I believe that a highly resolving kit will start to reveal short comings in every aspect of the recording and playback process. There is no way out of this. And if that disturbs you, then reality will be an unrelenting and brutal mistress. You would doomed to eternal unhappiness and frustration, OR poses a system and software that is dumbed down and removes us viscerally from the joy of music. Why bother?
That said, for me a line-contact stylus with special attention to aligning SRA seem to repeatedly have superior benefits in playing all kinds of vinyl.
2. This can be a somewhat difficult but very rewarding hobby if we have the tools to pursue it. We need resources of experience, knowledge, patience, and a commitment to looking toward this as a lifetime investment in well reproduced music for all the joy that it will reward us with.
Jim Smith’s book Get Good Sound and his subsequent videos and interviews offer some real practical and experience driven knowledge of good speaker/room set up.
I believe we would be able to help you better if we had more information from you. With all due respect, this is like telling a doctor that it hurts, please fix it... There are lots of good people on the site with plenty of good advice honed from decades of diverse experience. I would advise tapping on it.
No offense meant joeyfed55. It sounds like you could find enormous utility in having someone with lots of experience confirm your analog set-up, they can be tricky, and confirm your room/speaker relationship just mho.