Do you have a stock power cord on your amp?(CDP) If so, try one of Ernie's (Subaruguru) power cord's. Will make a tremendous improvement sonically and will set you back less than $50 (maybe even less depending on length). Uses excellent Belden 83802 12ga. wire and the IEC/AC Plug are surprising good and provide excellent electrical contact. You will have to assemble yourself or Ernie can assemble one for you. Excellent product/price and person to deal with. I would explore this option before I would do anything else. Bill
I think that the weak link is the CD player. I'd upgrade it first. Larger speakers would understandably improve bass extension, but they could not really improve what is coming from upstream. As well, a dedicated preamp will usually be superior to the volume controls included in some CD players. You are probably also experiencing for the first time the phenomenon of upgrades resulting in incrementally smaller improvements in the system as a whole (diminishing returns).
Boy, I noticed a huge difference between a Denon receiver and separates, and between low-end and high(er)-end separates, even without tweaking cables. I agree with the post above. System matching is indeed a likely issue, and I would focus on the lack of an active preamp. If you are working with a dealer, can you home demo a high-quality preamp? To cover all your bases, in combo with a CDP? I think you will hear something *way* better than what you are hearing now.
I doubt you will see much improvement with better speakers hooked to your receiver, in fact, it may well get worse as the speakers demand more current from your receiver than it can deliver, and as they reveal the flaws in the source and amp.
I went through a very similar journey myself years ago (without the benefit of this board!), and I now appreciate just how important proper amplification is. I believed the old saw about all your money should go into speakers, and hooked up nice speakers to my receiver. It did sound better, but the speakers didn't sound really good until I went to separates, and didn't really sing until I went to better quality amps.
Search on other threads here, and I think you will see that others have had the same experience -- good speakers make a big difference, but before you take the next step, ya gotta have the amps.
p.s. Before you assume an integrated is the way to go, consider separates, particularly if your room is at all large. I auditioned a variety of $1500 (or so, list) integrateds, and none sounded as good as separates in the same range (very noticeable difference). If that is your budget stick with separates. At that level, integrateds sound like just a step above good receivers.
Some of the high-end integrateds (Plinius, others) are well-regarded here -- my guess is that you have to spend at least $2500 (list) or more on an integrated to get good sound. None of those were available to audition locally, and none has the power of separates in that range. Which might be fine in your room with your speakers.
Lots more to say on this, you can certainly search on "integrated vs. separates" and probably find a very passionate discussion!
Some good advice already. Do a search on component hierarchy and variations thereof and you will find that there is a plethora of opinions as to what is the most critical in the chain audio components in a system. As has been said, and as you have acknowledged, the SYNERGY of components, tweaks, room-dimensions/treatments and musical tastes is critical and is all that this is about. Home demos are a great option if you have it. Research synergy of specific components by doing Internet searches here in the A'gon forums, on Audioasylum and AudioReview, and take all of that with a bag full of salt (as you should anything you read on the Internet). I think you can start to get a general consensus though, and start to narrow down your choices. That said, my personal opinion is not to focus on the tweaks at this point if you are looking for the MAJOR improvements (that is not to say a great PC cannot provide a major improvement, but in the budget you are talking about I think bigger improvements are available in the major components). If you like the sound and improvement the Tylers made why invest more to change them? I'd look at improving the source (CDP) first. IMO that is where an additional investment of a moderate amount has the potential to make a big difference. You could also try using the CDP as a transport if it has a digital output and invest in a good DAC (though I cannot comment on how good a transport your CL15 is). If you look at most of the responses/debates about the chain of Audio hierarchy you'll find that the majority of responses are in one of two camps at either end of the chain: The speakers camp, or the source camp. Yep, they'll be other folks picking out stuff in the middle, and they'll be a few talking bout the room, acoustic treatments, your hearing, and perhaps the phases of the moon! But most will point at one of the two ends of the chain to make the biggest difference. You've got a nice set of speakers that you like, so now look at the other end of the chain! You may also consider moving over to tubes, but that's a whole other ball of wax. I'm a big fan of tubes, and there are numerous threads on that subject as well so I won't even go there, except to say that the difference is profound in my opinion.
Although speaker makes the most difference, you can't use an entry level Denon to drive those speakers mentioned in your list, especially Merlin and DynAudio. I second that CDP direct to power amp might be a bad idea. You need a good luck to get good match by skipping the pre.
I think whatever you upgrade first will always offer you the highest in returns for your investment regardless of it being the speaker or the amp. I am not speaking in terms of diminishing returns. Rather, the first swapped component will always have the most drastic change in sound quality compared to what you have been used to.
So, I will assume had you swapped out the amp first before your got new speakers, you might claim your speakers are very high on returns on investment and not the amp. But, maybe upgrading amps just isn't very high ROI in your system...
FWIW if I were you I would revisit your expectations before you make any changes at all! Changes in electronic's are endlessly more subtle than for speakers. Lots of folks can hardly tell the difference. Even folks with very experienced ears argue about the effect of tweeks. All of that said, if you are having a problem now its with matching and the most likely area is between the CDP and the Amp. You might search the archives for comments on passive pre amps. The same problems that surround their use are the same things as may be causing your present problems, that is cable lengths, impedence matching, gain etc. You may need an active pre amp to get what you want to hear. Probably the last thing you want to do is buy high end speakers and try to drive them with mediocre electronics - they are all so revealing that all they will do is emphasize the failings of your electronics. But, if you MUST make a change now, I'd buy that Plinus 8150 Intergrated amp and a good powered sub woofer. That would keep you for a few years.
It might be useful to examine how and why you made the purchases you did before you swap anything else into your system.
1. If you heard these things all together in a demo system and liked them, then your problem is reproducing this sound in your own listening room and set up.
2. The performance of the Denon receiver can be easily surpassed. Why weren't you able to? Are you sure that the Denon is really up to delivering performance from more expensive speakers?
3. Don't be drawn in by the argument that running straight from a CDP to an amp will always give superior sound. T'aint so, especially at this price point.
Geoff, I was in the same situation as you are in and I was able to fix it very easily. I have a HKAVR5 with a Sony dvd player and Kinima speakers all around. Great for movies, crappy for music. I listened to music 90% of the time, so I had to make a few changes. Bought an Audio Aero prima amp with a pre out and a AA cdp. To put this system together, I have the cdp to the integrated amp with the front speakers from the amp. The pre-out from the amp to the cd input of the AVR5. Now I can control the sub with set volume on the AVR5 and the amp controls volume to the front speakers and the input to the AVR5 for the sub.
Sounds confusing, but it works. I take it you like movies also. Do the opposite. Front pre-out of AVR to an input of the integrated amp. Tweak the volumes and or input levels and you are set. When you do this, the avr controls the input to the integrated, center and rear channel and sub while the amp powers the fronts.
Sum it up, keep your 1801 and dvd player, if you like your cdp, fine, Audio Aero Prima's are really nice and get youself an integrated amp with a pre out and some Van Den Hul power cords for the amp and cdp. I had this set up for about a year now, no complaints from me.
Any questions, post or e-mail me. Good Luck.
I'm not familiar with the Rogue, but the difference between a cheap receiver, an okay amp and an excellent amp feeding nice speakers should be readily apparent. I agree with the advice that you should be looking for upgrades that offer immediate, almost jaw-dropping differences, not tweaks. I won't speculate why you didn't hear a difference between the Denon and the Rogue, but the difference I heard instantly between a higher-end Denon receiver and a nice multi-channel amp was big enough that it took one minute of a/b testing to say I'm not going back.
The Dynaudio Contour 3.3's are great speakers, but they'll be using about 3% of their potential driven by the Denon. If you think you're going to be able to buy a $2000 used amp in a year or so, it may be a good buy, but I'd buy something easier to drive if you're going to be sticking with the Denon for any period of time.
I owned a stock Rogue 88. With my Tyler Ref monitors it was one of the best amp combinations. I think you need to use a preamp. I don't know about the CAL CD player--a newer or older model? A Rogue 66 preamp or Anthem Pre2L should mate nicely with the Rogue 88 Magnum and keep you within a budget. Many of the speakers you listed require lots of power to drive (e.g. the Aerial 10T) so you'd be going in another direction and more $$$. Try a preamp!
i agree try a preamp. the cal is an excellent cd player...certainly not a weak link. try to decide what you think you are missing before you start over. as the quality gets better the improvements become minimal at real dollars.
well lots of great advice and a lot to think about!
Since I have the money at this time I believe I'll push for a preamp, probably a Rogue 99 or Audible Illusion M3a.
Then I'll take a drive down to my local hifi store and pickup a set of speakers from my list and set them up and make a decision which gives more bang for the buck.
But dont get me wrong, I could hear a difference between the rogue and the receiver....it was just subtle not in your face obvious like with the speaker change. The CD Player was also noticeable...but not sure if it was worth the difference that I noticed...
I found the Cal amps a little dry. I highly reccomend the sony 555es cd/sacd player. Great tonal balance. I also agree that your Denon could be improved on with a preamp.
I agree that what you are probably looking at is system mismatch based on lack of an active pre-amp. The CAL CDPs of that group (CL-10, CL-15, CL-20 - OK thats a DVD-) are all pretty good. I would definately try out an AI, the Rouge, and maybe a BAT VK3i which is suppossed to be easier on tubes than the AI. DO NOT make the mistake of going to a very high end, revealing transducer (speaker) driven by mediocre electronics. Besides the fact that the receiver may not even be able to drive some of the speakers you mentioned, they will show every wart and blemish in the system upstream. IMO, really good electronics driving fair to good speakers will usually sound better than fair electronics driving really good speakers.
Just smoke more crack; even your table radio will sound like a live concert. There's one hobby where changing the pipe doesn't affect the experience one whit. It's a cheaper habit than audio too.
I'd push for analogue. Less investment for Greater sound even with your current amp/speakers. You could get phono with volume control and play your digital stuff through the receiver in the bedroom. That is basically what I've done.
I wouldn't smoke crack since it's like lo-fi compared to the good coke or weed and other more pricey substances so Marty is wrong as this habbit can get extreamly expencive especially when every buck getting right into the brains on freequent consumption bases with following later-on consequences(if ones will ever take place during one's life)...
I'm wondering if perhaps I've over-budgeted for amp/preamp then
adding on a preamp that meets my needs will probably be in the 1200-1300$ range bringing the amp/pre total to about 2600$ while my speakers were only 1200$
would I be better off selling the amp and picking up a used integrated in the 750-1300$ ballpark and saving up for a few months and making the jump to one of the less power hungry speakers from my list above? (ie not Aerial or Dyns!)
Well, where do i begin. The largest sound change i got from my system was when i upgraded my cd player to an audio aero capitole. Before this i never really thought cd players added that much to a system. So now one might think that cd players are the most important part etc ... really i know that if the level of my system wasnt already incredibly high, much higher than when i bought my amp or speakers than the difference would have been much smaller. If you were to upgrade to merlins and run it with the denon you might get better sound, probably actually, but its almost a waste of money as you could only realize their full potential through higher quality equipment. Amps and cd players do make a difference but i find that with lower end auxilliary equipment the differences would be masked. If you are considering buying the merlins or other higherend speakers and stopping your system probably will sound better but you are depriving your self of slowly maturing your system through small component changes. So to end this diatribe, if you intend to only spend 3500 on your system total the merlins wouldn't be a bad idea, but if you have aspirations to further upgrades than i would keep what you have and slowly upgrade your weakest link. In audio the whole is greater than the sum of the parts of your system.
In order, I would try:
1. Put some heavy duty power cords on everything. You should be able to order some from Directron.com or find them at an electronics shop. Just so long as they aren't those super thin, bottom barrel power cords.
2. Twine all of your power cords together and run them down one side of the rack. Run all your ic's down the other. Try to have at least 3" distance between any power cord.
2. Try rebiasing the Rogue amp. (if you can).
3. But some new tubes for the cal cd player.
4. Retube the Rogue. If your music is sounding a little lifeless without top end sparkle, it could be the power tubes. It should cost around $100 for 6550's or $120 for SVETLANA KT88's. Let the tubes burn in for 100 hours, and if you don't see an improvement take them out and keep them as spares. Power tubes last around 2000 hours.
5. Swap your speaker cable for a $300 8 foot acoustic zen satori speaker cable. Excellent cable, especially with tubes.
6. Retube the Rogue.
6. Try a few different ic's. For tube systems and not a fortune, I like the $150 retail Supra EFF-ISL ic's. Nordost red dawns are good with tube systems too.
7. Next I would try selling the CD player and buying a Sony XA7ES or a Resolution Audio CD-50 for $1000-1200. I know from experiance that the XA7ES direct driven sounds as good as with a preamp. I've never owned a RA CD-50 but I've heard them and think they have a wonderful analog output stage. Both of these players hold their value quite well.
8. If you still don't like what you hear, I would then try buying some virgo II's for $2500. Alternatively, the $2500 (new) JM-Reynaud Trente is a great transmission line monitor w/lots of bass and a pronounced midrange.
If you want to try a preamp, I would try a $750 Adcom 750 preamp. Those are nice because they can be passive or active. Usually a component with a tube output like the Cal will have lots of drive, so you can run the Adcom passively. If you want a tube preamp I would the the rogue, Audible Illusions Mod 3a, or a BAT vk-3i. My guess is that the passive Adcom would better all of them.
Disclaimer: I sell JM-Reynaud speakers and Supra cables
How big is your room? And what is like? Lots of windows? Carpets or bare walls?
the room is about 14x18, speakers are about 2ft from back wall, 6ft apart from each other, and I sit about 7 ft from the speakers. Floor is hardwood, on the right side are cloth curtains covering a bay window, on the left is a wooden display case type unit
I like rangersaudio suggestions a lot ... they are all spot on!