Time and again people missing the boat on this.
Other thing is you value dynamic, warm, romantic and yet you are using digital sources. This does not compute.
What I'm hearing is a good budget being thrown around on a lot of expensive components none of which are wire. So just for starters try throwing out whatever you have and getting something like Synergistic Research Element Copper. Speaker cables, interconnects, power cords. One or all.
Time and again people missing the boat on this.
Other thing is you value dynamic, warm, romantic and yet you are using digital sources. This does not compute.
The only constant in your quest for the right sonics is the pair of B&W cm10s. You’ve paired some good electronics with them to no avail. It’s time to audition some new speakers. The CM’s IMO and IME, are a middle of the road affordable line of speakers for HT and 2 channel.
Go back to the basic starting point in building a system; pairing amp and speaker. It’s time to upgrade your speakers. I say upgrade rather than change because you can do a lot better than the CM’s. These speaks give you detail, but are on the opposite side of romantic.
The biggest sonic change in my system occurred when I switched from SS to tube. I tried several SS integrateds. I preferred some over others but on the whole, they all had a similar sonic signature.
It wasn't until I demoed an integrated tube amp that I discovered what I had been missing the last few years. Lush, warm, romantic, greater grip on the low end, and a superior sound stage.
I've tube rolled the stock JJ's for a NOS 1960's RCA clear top which was an improvement. But the more research I do, it seems that folks really like the Mullard. So I ordered one and should have it within the week.
You could do something like a used Rogue Cronus Magnum II for about $1,500.
Just my .02, YMMV, IMHO, etc.
I have one idle Cronus Magnum II fitted with NOS tubes like Telefuken and Mullard.
It sounds very romantic and dynamic with Lansche 4.1(I paid 50K$ for new one 12 years ago).
I had used this combination for 7 years.
SET tube amplifiers are even better but cost more which also requires good system matching with efficient speaker.
I suggest looking at speakers with specs that will accept a tube or SS amp. Then audition amps.
Used floorstanders that are laid-back yet realistic... Devore 8 or Super 8, PSB, Revel, Audio Psychic, Sonus Fabor. Dynaudio is an engaging speaker with detail. Probably will need power with these.
B&W would not be on the warm romantic list.
Cronus would be a terrific choice for an amp with your criteria.
Recently, at T.H.E. Show in Newport Beach, these two companies had exactly what you’re looking for. Coincidentally, both design their own electronics and their own speakers. They sounded great together.
PranaFidelity had their Purna/ma amp paired with their Vayu floorstanders.
Odyssey had their mono-blocks paired with their new Kismet floorstanders.
These two rooms sounded the most musical and organic of out the many exhibitors at T.H.E. Show.
Tube integrated and some ProAc floor standers.
I'm still amazed at the Proac response 2.5 and successors. had the 2.5's with some Cary SLM 100 (100wpc) tube amps that was a heavenly combo for some reason granted the later 2.5 variants are more detailed then the earlier ones in the high frequencies. If you can spring for the newer ribbon tweeter variants that's the sweet spot IMO.
I'd say many of the British speakers would fit your request as well.
I currently run Living Voice speakers and they do so much but they are also getting into the $10k area. Another would be AudioNote Speaker the AN line are nice if you have the room for them (they like to be in the corners). Harbeth another worth looking into.
First of all, I do not think you need tubes to get what you are looking for. I agree with some of the other comments... B&W CM10 probably won't fit the bill for what you are looking at. Throw as much of your money as you can at your speakers and upgrade the amp section later if need be. The warmest speaker I can think of would be anything by Harbeth (SHL5+ for dynamics amongst the Harbeth line up). They will have some detail as well but not insane amounts. I find the new Kef R series and the Kef reference (at the upper end of the budget) to have good detail but are not bright. They also put out a crazy soundstage. Maybe check them out if you get a chance. As well, have a look at your source (PC). Laptops, PC's, Mac's, etc are some of the worst possible sources for digital. Even a cheap dedicated streamer like a Bluesound Node 2i should provide much better performance than a noisy PC. If you intend to stick with a PC for your entire journey have a look at some products like the audioquest jitterbug or the ifi isilencer products. These things will help reduce some of the noise over your USB.
Everything in your system will play a part in achieving your goal of a dynamic warm romantic sound with detail that you seek.
Do you have any local , or not so local audio dealers you can visit to listen to speakers and associated gear?
You could start off by researching speakers and amps that have the characteristics you seek and make a list. Go out and visit audio dealers that have these speakers and amps to listen for yourself.
Do you have any friends that are into audio where you could go and listen to what they have? You could also check for local audio clubs/groups for learning and listening to other people's set up.
I would take your time and measure as many times as you need before you cut.
It’s without question, we all have our own perspectives towards gear and will engage in technical banter, data points and all things from here to the moon. But one thing I’m almost certain all will agree upon, room treatment and how it impacts sound. A little will go a long, long way. Some of what you’re hearing would be cleaned up with room treatment. It could be the detail you’re seeking is being obscured by your room dimensions, or the positioning of your speakers, or a number of unrelated equipment items. Either way, with a budget like that, you’d be doing a disservice to the gear by not optimizing their environment.
Agree, look at your room first. Your budget is ample. I used to think B&W were the gold standard but there is so much out there. Can you attend any of the big shows?. This will allow you to listen to so many different setups in a short amount of time. I also suggest bringing cash and buying the best system you can afford. The dealers are usually open to selling so they don't have to ship back home. That's what I did down to the cables. Very happy.
The new KEF R series and Sonus Faber Sonettos come to mind when you say "romantic". Obviously I haven't listened to every speaker manufacturer in the history of the world, but these two are the most recent that I think may fit the bill. At least in my experience and idea of a "romantic" sound.
As others have said, everything adds up to a sum result. Your amp choice will be important. Your interconnects will matter. Your source material will matter. Even your room will matter. I'd take a good long listen to tube vs. solid state. Both can sound romantic and warm. Just depends on the manufacturer.
Do you have a selection of songs that you know well and know how you want them to sound? Obviously, I'd bring those with me to the hi-fi shop.
Keep in mind, what sounds romantic to you, may sound completely different to someone else. I wouldn't limit yourself to thinking digital can't have the sound you want (as suggested by some). I used to bartend and I can promise you some people's idea of romance can be drastically different than others. Some couples show up for a candle lit dinner, while others do a bunch of cocaine in the bathroom then try to run out on the bill. Ah, romance!
I just watched a review on your Hegel H590 and it looks like a nice unit. Maybe it’s your speakers and agree ProAc’s might be a good choice but I’d stop for a minute and ask have you done any room treatment? On the Darko YouTube review in the background he uses Vicoustic panels which I use too and can say from owning these that if you haven’t worked on your room you are wasting your time and money. Also I question how good your PC is as a streamer. I’d suggest room treatment then streamer.
It sounds like the DAC in the Hegel is no slouch. I totally agree today’s DAC’s can easily compete with analog and a lot more convenient. Would have to know a lot more about the OP, PC, but I’d be surprised if it’s up to par with a really good streamer which will likely give you more cable options as well.
Back to my previous post on room treatment; I think far too many people ignore their room and are never happy with their gear and are always on the merry go round and changing out stuff. I know I played that game for years myself until I tried it and now I’m blown away how my system or room sounds now.
Rationale: If you listen to rock, I suppose you want bass. Lots of it.
Therefore, I would get a floor-stander that goes down to 20Hz. Or at least to 25Hz. And I don't mean the 25Hz written in the spec sheet (-10dB/1m), but the one in tests, with room response at -6dB/2.5m.
Further on, look at an amp that can sustain and control that bass. I'd say at least 200W into 8 ohms which must double into 4 ohms.
Also, if you want crystal-clear vocals, means you want the best mid-range you can get (usually only found in the reference series of speakers).
Therefore, for top-notch sound in the bass and mid-range, you want a "flagship", "higher-end", "signature", "reference", "top of the line" amplifier and speakers, plus cabling, room treatment and good speaker positioning.
Here are some suggestions - partially extracted from StereoPlay's latest rank (June 2019) combined with my personal research.
Reference class A/B amps with DAC and at least 200W/8 ohm which doubles into 4 ohms (approximate MSRP prices):
- Gryphon Diablo 300 (18k with DAC)
- Mark Levinson Nº 585 (14k)
- McIntosh MA9000 (13k)
- Hegel H590 (10k)
- Maranz PM10 (Class D, 10k)
- Audionet DNA (10k)
- Perreaux 255i (8k)
- Krell Digital Vanguard (7.8k)
- Anthem STR (6k)
- Hegel H390 (6k)
Reference Speakers that in-room go below 30Hz at -6dB/2.5m (approximate MSRP prices):
- KEF Blade Two (25k)
- Bowers & Wilkins 802 D3 (22k)
- Canton Reference 1K (20k)
- Monitor Audio Platinum PL500 II (20k)
- Focal Sopra No. 3 (20k)
- Audio Physic Avantera III (20k)
- Dynaudio Confidence 30 (20k)
- KEF Reference 5 (19k)
- Sonus Faber Amati Tradition (18k)
- Bowers & Wilkins 803 D3 (17k)
- Wilson Audio Sabrina (16k)
- Focal Sopra No. 2 (14k)
- Focal Kanta No. 3 (13k)
- Canton Reference 3K (10k)
- Dynaudio Contour 60 (10k)
- Nubert nuVero 170 (9k)
- Bowers & Wilkins 804 D3 (9k)
All the above equipment is detailed and dynamic. "Warm" and "romantic" are subjective matters, and I wouldn't rely on forums and the Internet for that. In my humble opinion, these attributes depend more on the album and its recording quality / mastering, rather than the equipment you're using. You'll just have to go with your own music a nearby audio show and listen to different combinations.
I know a combo with above equipment can exceed 20k, but don't get scared of MSRP prices and try to buy (a bit) used or ex-demo. I just (May 2019) got a Hegel H590 + Canton Reference 3K combo for ~9k euro (MSRP 20k) and they sound heavenly (I listen mostly to acoustics - jazz, ambient, chill-out, piano, instrumental and classical in a room of 25 square meters).
With regards to using subwoofers, I would ditch them. Don't get me wrong, subwoofers are great - if you have speakers that don't go below 30Hz. If you have bookshelf or smaller reference floor-standing speakers and you want to add subs - you MUST get 2 reference subs (at least in the area of SVS 4000 or Rel S/5 SHO) - which will set you at least 4k only for the subs! And keep in mind that even if you have reference bookshelves and top-notch subs - I doubt you'll be able to tune and make them work together better than a speaker manufacturer has tuned-up their flagship floor-stander. Just saying.
Best of luck and don't ignore cabling, room treatment and speaker positioning!
It is my IMHO.
All these modern main stream audiophile tower speakers newer sound really dynamic for my test. All this c%#p like "bass slam" sounds to me like compression.
If you want real dynamic sound go to speakers like: Altec, Tannoy, Klipsh,... and tube amplification.
You can use Altec and Klipsh with tube SET amplifier. For Tannoy you need more powerful tube push-pull amplifier like vintage McIntosh mc30, mc240.
IME the front end is just as important as the back end. No amp/speaker combination can fix bad source material. I also agree with those that have mentioned room acoustics. For my tastes I have found that a system that lacks warmth is usually due to too much midrange in the room in the freq. range of 1k to 3k.
To answer the OP's question directly I prefer the combination of Atma-Sphere or ARC amps with Wilson Audio speakers. (I am also currently auditioning a pair of SVS SB4000 subs)
McIntosh amps, to me, have a hollow sound in the lower vocal range, kind of what you get if you were to cup your hands around your mouth when you speak. Actually when I was auditioning amps McIntosh was my least favorite between Atma-Sphere, ARC, Bel Canto, Coda and Ayre.
Also for comparison other speakers that I auditioned before the Wilson Audio's were B&W, Focal, Paradigm, Spendor and Vandersteen
Whoah, let's back up a bit in this thread with recommending everything under the sun.
n_brio's only experience here is bouncing between two brands. While the B&W CM10 speakers can definitely be upgraded, I do think that n_brio can approach what he is looking for with the right amp/preamp. I would say neither McIntosh nor Hegel is the right answer here. When I heard Hegel, it came across very solid state and very sterile sounding (not great at all). McIntosh definitely sounded good, but it was wayyy too laid back and just lacked the dynamics and excitement and resolution. Those are my own opinions and seem to match n_brio's experience as well.
There is definitely something in the middle that has the romantic/warm sound with enough dynamics for your taste. I probably would avoid Pass Lab because, while it is very nice and warm, it just does not have the dynamics and excitement. Maybe the closest thing I have heard for a romantic/warm/dynamic sound is the Parasound amps, but there's no guarantee that that's what you actually want. This is where things become more difficult because you now have a dozen different people all saying "you should buy xx because it's the best!".
My suggestion is take a step back and know that McIntosh / Hegel are not the right answers. Maybe take a trip around to listen to as much equipment as you can. This would be an excellent excuse for a show such as RMAF or XPONA.
Im starting to get a new speakers first and i have been listening to a few in my area that i like.
Sonus faber olympica 3 played with audio analog maestro
B&W 804 D3 (sounded way better them ny cm10)
Did not like
Dynaudio contour 60
what i would like to listen to is Focal Sopra 2 and SF Amati Futura but there is no dealer that have this speaker.
what speaker would be the detailed, dynamic, warm, romantic sound. with nice midrange sound of piano, strings and female voices of this speakers?
Sonus faber olympica 3
B&W 804 D3
Focal Sopra 2
SF Amati Futura
Try a Vinnie Rossi LIO integrated OR his upcoming L2i Signature integrated (or his separates of course, if you can swing it). Both DHT. To pair with whatever speakers you decide on. Fitting paring parameters followed of course.
The point there is you can roll a wide variety of very musical Direct Heated Triode tubes until you find the fine tuned sound you’re after.
Also switch out to try the Duelund Wire w/ the new Duelund RCA plugs for interconnects and speaker cables, too. The Duelunds are cheap enough to have on hand to try with what you may demo.
And as mentioned, room treatments to mellow the room and help further bring out freq balance and detail.
How your treating the wall power is also a factor to rid system of brightness.
I've been in your shoes before. And it’s all about fine tuning once you think you’ve found the contenders. It takes a whole room and system approach to get there that does not end up with something to dark and closed-in.
Clean the power good > room treatments in the basic spots > choose speakers > choose amp > wire > tune room treatments.
Once these steps are taken you may even notice that your ears do not ‘need’ as much warmth and romantics as thought to be comfortable.
My Nightshade speakers shine like the sun with female voices. I had customers in at AXPONA and we spent 45 minutes listening to different tracks and the customer thought they were extremely soulful.
I am OOS at the moment waiting on parts from Europe. I will be back in stock in a couple weeks. These pair extremely well with a neutral to slightly forward sounding solid state amp or a very linear tube amp.
Paired with the Musical Fidelity M6 Pre and Power amp, it would be brilliant. I would put together a package deal if you are interested.
The sound you are looking for can be had with a Luxman 590 AX II driving Wilson Sabrinas.I can agree with the Luxman. I had one for a bit paired with the beautiful, incredibly real and dynamic sounding Daedalus speakers and it was warm in all the right ways. That system could be turned up loud with no brightness and sound sooo so good. Even with a mid-level DAC.
I agree 100% with what you're plan (tube amp, SS pre) to get a warm sound. I say to keep it simple, get the tube amp before you do anything. It should make a huge difference! Then start changing other items. But remember that you're sound is only as good as the weakest link, and you're weakest link could as easily be your source component as it could be your speakers.
The only tube amp that you can count on to deliver is any Audio Research amp in the last 15-20 years. If you use one of those and the sound doesn't come into focus, then it's your speakers or your source. (I'm not saying that other tube amps are not as good as ARC, I'm just saying that ARC is a veritable sure thing).
I haven't found cables to make that big of difference with a good tube amp, though, of course, quality cables should certainly be used. But, I do not agree with using cables to EQ your system.
I know exactly the sound you are looking for, because that is what I’ve been looking for myself. I think I’m 90% of the way there.
Speakers: Tekton Design Double Impacts
Amp: Pass Labs XA30.8
Pre: BAT 51SE
DAC: PS Audio DSD w/Bridge II
Power: PS Audio P12
The only component I won’t give my full recommendation to purchase is the BAT, which is primarily due to its age. That and the fact that the sound supposedly changed in more recent models; I have no experience with newer models. That said, the BAT definitely adds weight to the music, which I like. I’ve taken that preamp out of the chain several times to decide if I could live without it; it always goes back in.
Overall, the system is very detailed, warm, and most importantly, has that certain “magic” to the sound that’s difficult to describe. Best of all, each one of those components seem to provide extraordinary value at their price points.
I agree with willrich47 and in addition I will give my own opinion.
I have been looking for what you have been searching for months now and I have auditioned some amps, mostly intergrated but basically they have a similar signature sound to the separates. I have auditioned the Hegel, Gryphon, T&A, Luxman, Pass Labs and actually owned a Krell. In my opinion the closest amp I found to a tube sound and the sound you are looking for was the Pass Labs INT 60 and you can also go with the XA30.8 as separates, but I still believe you should audition it yourself.
Reference speakers, for starters I would not recommend any that have metal tweeters. Although B&W are good speakers in my opinion they are too accurate and a bit sterile for my taste. I actually fell heads over heals with the Verity’s, they have everything you are looking for. I can’t wait to bring them home but have to wait till August. Another good speaker that will pair well with the Pass is the Harbeth, I heard it with the 40.2 and the pairing was phenomenal.
I listen to music that has a lot of brass and vocals, and the Pass Labs is not fatiguing in any way. I think lends itself to all types of music, as I mentioned in my thread, it’s the chameleon of amps.
Anyway, I hope this helps and enjoy the hunt.
I’d very much recommend Fritz bespoke speakers, with the ring radiator tweets.
Unlike store brands, Fritz will customize a crossover for you, so if you want it more or less colorful or need it brighter, he can make the changes in the crossover for you.
Also, his choice in the mid-woofer is exactly the sound you are going for. I use the same one's.