Help, my system sounds lifeless!

Hi, this is my first post.  I rushed putting my system together when i emigrated from the UK to New Jersey.  In fact this site was partly to blame as i was attracted to the amazing  "used" deals!  I bought a pair of Dali Helicon 400 (mark I)  as they passed the WAF.  The rest of the system contains a Belles Soloist Integrated and Simaudio Equinox SE CD player, wireworld platinum eclispe 6 interconnect & Audio Art Cable Classic SC-5 Speaker Cable.  My room maybe partly to blame but generally the system sounds lifeless, with little soundstage (better when i play vinyl).  I am not feeling/falling in love with the speakers and do not like the bass response (which is often reported).  I would like to change the speakers and was wondering if you could help.  I have an extremely large cd collection (and have recently bought a used Lumin D1, but unfortunately not set up yet) covering all kinds of music.  I am thinking 8ohm with better sensitivity would be a better option.  Looking to spend around $3000-4000 used.  Some contenders include Revel F206 or F208, Tannoy DC8 or DC8T, ATC SCM40, JA Pulsars (maybe too much $), PBN Liberty, Aerial 10T (never see them used) but they must have grills as sometimes kids go in the basement.  Maybe Monitors with stands would be better option?  I am hoping the flickr link works so you can see my room (excuse the feet!).  I want to fall in love with my large music collection again!  Looking for good bass & soundstage and speakers that can play all kinds of music (sometimes I'm partial to deep electronic music).  In some ways because my taste is so vast i am not particularly looking for ultra revealing speakers (Nora Jones speakers i think you call them!).  Looking forward to the NY audio show so i can hear some systems.  Thanks for all the help, cheers Paul
Paul nice feet! :p On a more serious note that looks like a pretty small room or at least a narrow one for floorstanding speakers, no wonder you are have issues with bass response. They seem to be firing straight ahead have you experimented with toe-in yet? In that room I would personally use a pair of standmount monitors, the rest of your gear and cabling looks pretty solid. So take some time mess around with the Dali's and see if you can make is listenable in the meantime you are in the NY/NJ metro area and should have tons of places to audition speakers. Take your time listen and try to buy it right and buy it once. Cheers!
Start with your room acoustics. Good acoustics will outlast every other piece of gear. :)

GIK Acoustics gives great advice and most value components. Courtains, wall hangings behind and on the sides are additional ways to improve the situation.

Once that’s dialed, then make decisions.

Usually adding acoustic treatment in the plane of the imaging you want to enhance is the best idea.

Lastly, you need speakers with really controlled dispersion OR lots of acoustic panels. I mean, it’s a trade off. The narrower the dispersion, the less acoustic materials, more or less.

But that’s a tight spot. Line sources or panels may be much better options. The last thing you want in this case is very wide dispersion speakers. Small horn loaded/wave guide speakers may also work well.

Try crossing your speakers in front of you instead of shooting them straight ahead too.
by the way, I kind of agree with Jond in that your speakers are too big for the space. Narrow dispersion stand-mounts are better ideas, especially if clarity and musicality are what you want. They may also "sound" tighter in the bass due to not aggravating room modes as easily.

Here's a good option


+1 Monitors on stands with a separate powered sub. This set-up offers the advantage of placing the sub wherever it will work best relative to the listening chair. This is beneficial for rooms with an asymmetrical layout that has suck-out nodes. The trick is to reverse engineer the placement. Put the sub where the listening chair is located, then walk around the room where you hear the most bass. That’s where to place the sub. Re: lifeless - speakers alone might not be the culprit. Any number of variables can be involved.
Get yourself a pair of Totem Hawk or Forest speakers.  Extremely lively and spatial.  Next will be cable the mean time work on your room treatments.
For small kids go to basement, I'd suggest speakers with large foot print that are very hard to move. Therefore I bought Aerial 10t. They're children proof and very strong tonal balance -- as perfect as you can tune with active crossover, deep soundstage and quality bass.  They're not around much used for a reason so keep an eye.
Ck out some used Vandersteen Treos.  
Definitely need smaller stand mounters for that space, maybe with a small sub.
Another very nice speaker for a small space is the Gershman Chameleon. A relatively small floor standing 2 way speaker with incredibly good detail, very nice with strings, vocals, horns and percussion and present a convincingly deep and wide stage. They also have very good base - full and punchy, down to about 32 HZ, so may not need a sub. If still available, they sell new for around $2,200.00 and sometimes can find used for around $1,000.00. I've had and listened to speakers that cost much more money that didn't sound as good. 
Good luck with your Quest.
 Hello, dont expect too much from Dali,  If you  have time in November
5-7 you have to visit NY Audio Show , Come over Room 807 
It's a picture, I can't tell how big or small the room is.

Spout, could you post the dimensions and take some pics from all directions.? People are telling you your room is too small, we can't tell, he could have 10 feet behind where he is sitting. It looks like you might benefit from some better setup. Read up on the different methods for speaker setup. The room acoustics should be addressed. It might help to get that cabinet out of there. You could set your gear up on the left, if you clean up those shelves. Yes, that might involve getting longer speaker cables.
Do you live near any audio shops? If so, go in and listen, if you like the store, find out if they will let you bring in one component at a time, and put it into the system they used that you liked. I don't know any of your gear. Could be one big mismatch. I recently heard a system using a Moon dac, I didn't like it. Your CD player was reviewed in 2004, it may be part of the problem. I don't think you will find what you are seeking, by changing speakers, without hearing them and others.
Get the Lumin set up, see if it sounds better than the CD player.
We all have our preferences, but I won't recommend specific gear, not without knowing more about the room.

Going to the audio show is a good idea.
These are new & different items/brands items, purchased when you moved away from the UK?

What did you have in the UK and was it at all lifeless?

Besides component choice (and the possibility that your listening enjoyment was shattered by falling onto a hard brexit), "My room maybe partly to blame" is a very likely issue.  Shape is one issue, but size may be forcing you to listen in near-field conditions.

The cheapest thing is to try some room treatments, and it is possible to use wall hangings, tapestries etc that will be allowed in by your wife.  Those can address treble - traps will likely be needed for mids/lows.  A spectrum analyzer is your friend.  And time - lots and lots of time.

Small speakers, as noted above, could be the salvation here.  Or try a half bottle of whiskey before listening ...
Go to for a solution to your problem. Why would anyone suggest curtains and wall hangings to help deal with "lifeless" sound? Those deaden the room, don't they?
Why not solve the issue of your room...look into the  DSPeaker Dual Core or better yet the new to release DSPeaker X4.
They also have 20 Day review period, so nothing to fear.

This did wonders for my system!  
re:  Why would anyone suggest curtains and wall hangings to help deal with "lifeless" sound? Those deaden the room, don't they?

Hark back to you sophomore year physics course - the part about wave superposition and cancellation and you'll see the answer
For lively speakers in a small room consider kef LS50 with a smaller subwoofer. The rising response in the treble that KEF and B&W tend to have may be just the sizzle you are looking for.
"Wave suppression and cancellation" applies more to the lower frequencies, which aren't generally associated with "Liveliness."
He's not complaining about dropouts - he's looking for more highs and maybe presence. 
Unless you are adding reflective surfaces, room treatments will dull the sound.
It looks like he has plenty of reflective surfaces. 

Standmounts and a small sub will give better flexibility in that space.
"Wave superposition and cancellation" applies to ALL frequencies - not sure why you read suppression into that

It may be that is not his problem BUT it is very easy and inexpensive to check - he can simply hang some rugs in various places in the room and test

The kef LS50s have a good reputation, but aren’t easy to test.

Take a look at his pic and if anything it seems he has too much reflective surface... yet another reason to get some analytical equipment in there and find out what is really going on

Still need to hear answers to the questions about what he had in the UK...

One more idea: just maybe it is not a room-speaker interaction (less likely, but...) - he can take the speakers outside and test, OR turn them off and borrow some headphones to test
Aerials are excellent; therefore people buy them and don’t give them up. I think they are producing smaller, less expensive floor standers now based on the 7T. I always like the 10Ts so I’m thinking along your lines. Full range like a larger Spendor rather than an LS3/5A - a Nora J. monitor, the latter. The Paradigms and PSBs are some to consider. If you can put your TT and sources in an adjacent room that should help - perhaps you are getting acoustic feedback? Finally make sure your mains power supplies enough amperage for each line going into your electronics.
Looks like those speakers have dual binding posts for biwire/biamp.
Maybe you forgot to connect the jumpers. ;)
First, welcome to the splendor of the Garden State!  Things must be real bad in the UK.  Heh heh.  Anyway, try hanging a blanket over your TV.  All the reflections bouncing off that can mess with your imaging.  Been there.  Also, if you haven't already, take the grills off the speakers.  These are two easy freebies that could help. 

Also agree with Jond that in that room wide dispersion speakers (i.e. Joseph Audio) might be problematic.  Something like Vandersteen might work better and also improve imaging.  If you can make it to Audio Connection in NJ I'd highly recommend going. 

All that said, if it's me and given your room I'd first absolutely try a room correction device like DSpeaker as amp1231 suggested.  There are very few rooms that don't DRAMATICALLY benefit from room/speaker correction, and in your case it could potentially solve a multitude of problems.  I've heard several of these at shows and in personal systems, and after hearing the corrected result you just wouldn't even want to listen to the non-corrected version -- it literally sounds broken by comparison.  Buy used or try some kind of demo, but definitely explore this path.  It could well save you tons of time and $$$ playing with room treatments and equipment.  Best of luck. 

Those Tannoy DC 8T's are very nice speakers. Lots of emotion. The cabinets are plywood so they don't suck the life out of the music. Plus you can drive them with an inexpensive 300B amplifier for a rich midrange. The DC 8T's were preferred over the larger DC 10T's which probably has to much bass to muddy things up. 
 spoutmouzert ...

Those in this thread who have recommended room treatments and speaker placement have hit the nail on the head. If you sell your Dali's, only to replace them with different speakers, you're just throwing your money away. If nothing else is done, the new speakers will sound like crapolla too. 

You can't  just throw speakers into a room and expect them to sound right. Consider that the room is part of the overall system and has to be thought of and treated just like another component in the system.

There are tons of room treatments and tweaks, some expensive, and some truly cost effective, that would get you a lot further down the road toward audio nirvana. Keep exploring this site and you will discover them. 

If you want a blow by blow description, just ask. 

Good luck ...


 I have a pair of Joseph Audio Prisms that I think are fantastic speakers and work well with tubes or solid state. These monitors sound big, not the miniaturized sound of many monitors, and they are very musical, but they still check the all of the audiophiles boxes such as imaging, tone, dynamics,  micro and macro details. They are roughly half of the price of the Pulsars, $3699. list, and worth every penny.
I would not spend money on room treatments. Wait till you purchase speakers and see how the room responds to them. Over the years I have made my own  treatments. Recently I ordered a heavy 28 oz fabric and installed curtains behind my system. Previously I have used 5X8 foot throw rugs on the rear and one side walls. You can hang them using carpet tack strip nailed to the wall 16" OC and then the rug is attached. Find some decorative rugs. 

While some room treatments are really expensive, meant for the custom installers who are building million dollar listening rooms, GIK is not only quite affordable but effective. So much so that I wouldn't make my own.



I see so many people here pointing to room treatments. I will -partially- agree. The room that he has is not really that great. I can see a couple of problems. The right side of the room is open, which is good, but the left side has these cabinets very close to the speaker. This will cause the left speaker to "blare" some because the mids/highs will plane/reflect off of the cabinets some. Also, that soffit built into the ceiling on the top/left edge of the wall may cause some problems with brightness. Bass response can be an issue with room nodes where some sound absorption panels can help. However, I personally feel that broadband sound absorption is really not that good. In my experience, it really sucks the life out of the music. It really reduces the high frequency excitement.

One thing I noticed is that you have a LOT of silver in your system (Wireworld Platinum Eclipse & Audio Art SC-5). Silver has a higher conductivity than copper and will charge/discharge much faster. In practical terms and in my experience, this means that waveforms will tend be translated to be much faster than normal. There will be a natural push in the mids/highs and I have found that silver will lack bass/midbass body and punch.

Adding silver can help a very slow/warm system (such as tubes), but your system is the complete opposite of tubes. The Simaudio CD player has been said to be very clean/clear and solid state - opposite of something like a Jolida tube CD player. The Belles Soloist Integrated has a fully discrete input stage and is probably a very strong power supply/circuit. I have also found that silver will be so fast and clean that it give a somewhat "artificial" sound. The music and vocals will not sound natural or real. (I recently even found that just adding a silver-plated fuse holder will impart this clean/artificial signature). All of this together (system synergy) may be causing your "lifeless" type of sound.

You said that you like your turntable sound just a bit better. This source will present a warmer/slow type of sound than your extra-clean CD source. I would like you to try a very cheap experiment. Go out and get some 12awg Oxygen Free (OFC) stranded copper speaker wire. You can get this anywhere, BestBuy, whatever (Monoprice sells a 50 foot spool for $16). Just make sure it’s OFC and stranded copper. (do not use the BlueJeans Beldon 10/12awg cable - it is inferior to normal OFC stranded). You can easily bi-wire just by doing a double run. Burn it in for 24 hours and then listen to it. My guess is that it’s going to sound more natural/fuller with more bass. If this experiment succeeds and you like this, maybe try a copper-only interconnect (such as the Wireworld Eclipse -- no silver wire, only pure copper). The Wireworld Eclipse will only cost you $375 new for a half-meter.

Once you complete these really cheap experiments, you can look at different speaker wire.  Or you can look at room treatment if you feel. Or even think about different speakers.

Not familiar with this gear but in general one should make sure hearing is in good shape whenever a system that should sound good sounds "lifeless".   Especially before making any changes.  Ears need periodic maintenance and cleaning sometimes just like all the rest of the gear.  Wax buildup/etc can happen to anyone.
A lot of people have taken the time to ask questions and make suggestions. 
I don't see one reply from the Op. 

Makes me wonder why we bother. 
Where is the OP?
Not trying to be a smart ass but have you checked to see if the mono button is on????
maybe the OP's system was so lifeless that it killed him...
You can't go wrong with the Focal 1027be, I used to drive mine with a Belles Ref v2.  However, full disclosure I am selling them😀 As you may notice in another area of this website...

A short p.s.  From your snap:

1. the speakers appear a bit big for the room, but I don't see any obvious reason for the sound being dull, assuming you move your feet to allow the sound waves to flow over you...
2. you need to grow a pair and relocate your stereo to the optimum living room location. 
3.  The Dali's might be a difficult load?  The Soloist isn't a powerhouse is it?
4.  Try the cable change first, least expensive option.
5. I hope you didn't leave Blighty looking for a calmer, more stable political process.....

Agree with everyone else here that the speakers are too big for the room, but for S's & G's, why not try this experiment:  Buy a cheap small pair of British mini monitors and see if you don't just love the way they sound compared to your large speakers in that room.  Celestion C3's, Mission 70's mk II, or Mission 731's for $100 or less and I'll bet you'll be floored with how good they sound in that room.  And then you could upgrade into a smaller pair of speakers.  I just love the ProAc Super Tablettes and if the money is really burning a hole in your pocket, get a pair of LS 3/5a's or ProAc Response 1's.  
Not sure if the OP has given up on us, but for posterity at least . . . 

+1 on using a DSPeaker or similar room correction component.  

I had a similar set of problems in my listening room (a study -- smallish room, reflective surfaces (french doors), one speaker nearer a wall than the other) and a similar problem of lifeless sound.  The DSPeaker (Antimode 2.0 Dual Core in my case) made a huge difference.  The system sounds awesome -- to me at least.  I had a nasty resonance around 75mHZ that is now . . . gone.  

One aspect of using room correction equipment that isn't often mentioned is that -- completely aside from moderating unwanted low frequency bumps and dips) -- they can help you determine, in objective terms with actual microphone test results, optimum speaker placement and room treatments.  It's a little tedious to do the experimentation and testing, but at the end not only can you "trust your ears," but you can see the data through frequency response plots.  In my own case, shortening a long story, the DSPeaker actually saved me money by demonstrating that a separate subwoofer in addition to my ML Motion 20's was not really doing much.  The speakers alone were getting down to about 32 mHZ +/- 3dB on their own and the improvement in low-end frquency response was marginal, and boomy to one degree or another, irrespective of sub placement.  The sub went back and I've been delighted ever sense.  

YMMV, of course, but that's my own experience with the DSPeaker.  Easily the most impactful component I have.


I disagree with everyone. Especially those who disagree with me. 

Maybe it came back to life.  🍷
Its one of my pet peeves.  A guy comes into the room with a problem. He asks for suggestions on how to solve the problem. He gets tons of sincere answers ... and doesn't have the common courtesy to just say a simple "thank you," but doesn't even acknowledge the responses in any way.

Everything is broken. Especially in NJ.

I disagree with everyone. Especially those who disagree with me.
I think I agree with you, but I'm not sure.
Make up your mind johnny before this post dies a less then painful death. It is already lifeless.

I agree w/you cheap experiment is just for S's and Giggles and would prove right away what I believe to be true, that those speakers are just too big for that room.  Over the years, I have found myself shaking my head many times, that some inexpensive speakers sound much better than they have a right to.  To me, that's the fun of this hobby.
Make up your mind johnny before this post dies a less then painful death. It is already lifeless.

One assumes less than painful death would be what, uncomfortable? Tickles? 

Perhaps an eternity of presidential  that painful enough?

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