Help with System Musicality


I'm reaching out to my fellow A'goner's with an issue I'm sure many of you have faced before. My current system (VPI Scoutmaster/Zyx R100H, First Sound Presence deluxe MKII, Edge G8+, Volent CL2i speakers, Mac Mini music server, and Sonore DSD DAC nad MIT, Analysis plus, and Wireworld cables...sounds extremely accurate, revealing, etc.... But that's the problem. It's not music! My favorite system of all time, before Desert Storm war, was Project 6.1 with Kiseki Blue Gold, Vac in the box phono, Reference line 2a, Air Tight el34 Amp, and totem Model 1 with Purist Audio cables. i couldn't have been happier and have been chasing the same enjoyment since then. I want that magic back! Looking for suggestions to upgrade/change system. I like warmth, holographic soundstage, realistic bass, and in-the-room presence with an emotional connection. I'm desperate...listen to %95 jazz. Any help/suggestions would be greatly appreciated. First corrective step @ $3K.
communique1
I'd suggest as a first step replacing the SS monoblocks with tube amps like the Air Tights. Your "favorite system" sounds to me as if it would outscore the current one in many ways. So why not try to duplicate it to the extent possible? Good luck.
I don't know why you got rid of you original setup, probably because you were going away to serve for a long while but, unless you were to completely replace each and every piece with the original equipment, which is probably financially not realistic, you are going to have to go one piece at a time.

This is the dilemma.

I would also say that replacing one piece won't get you "there" either. You replace one piece and it gets better, but not "there". So, you upgrade another and it gets closer.

I would say that you should identify exactly what is wrong with the sound and address that. "it isn't music" isn't quite the description to do that. Is the music flat without space, dimension, no sound stage? Instruments don't sound like real instruments? be careful here because many times its the actual recording and not the playback equipment.

Start with your analog side of the system first. More open? but not quite there? I'm not familiar with your pre-amp or amp. But, have you heard your speakers on a better setup? can you borrow a better pre-amp and test it out with your amp and speakers? same is true for the amp and the speakers.

This is hard. I would establish a price point for upgrading equipment (keep within your budget and sound quality policy) take the best pre-amp you can afford home and insert it and listen intently to the music. does it address the issue? If so, you are on the right track. Then do the same with the amp if the pre-amp didn't do it all.

You don't need to buy anything yet. This is to listen in your home to "better" equipment until you discover what is wrong and what type of equipment will make the improvements you like within the budget.

What I would not do is take the advice of anyone for equipment that you have not heard yourself either in your home (best) or in the store and purchase that equipment.

If stores won't let you take expensive equipment home for a few days demo (which I still find stupid and a bad business practice), then you must take many trips to stores for long listening sessions.

But take your time, listen to a possible replacement piece of equipment in your home on your system if possible before purchasing.

enjoy
At first glance it would seem that you are missing the EL34 tube amp and the PAD cables, both known for their rich, vibrant midrange. Perhaps you should look for another tube amp and some PAD cables.

I am not familiar with your speakers though, do they have ribbon tweeters? Perhaps this may be causing problems too.
If I were you I would change out ALL your cables for the same brand Like Morrow Audio, Only then will you be able to make correct upgrade choices. Honestly, Cables (and they don't have to be expensive) will make or break your system. The gear you have is good!
You'll get as many suggestions as people who answer and at best perhaps only be one step closer...or further away depending.

Do you live near any other A'goner's?

The easy way will be to go and listen to another system until you hear the one you like that would work in your room as well.

Then put that exact same system or something as close to it as possible in your room.

Might be a shorter and more direct approach than trying to figure it out piece by piece.

Or a local dealer could work. Used to be that people bought entire matched systems all the time. NOWadays people seem to go piece by piece. Probably due to the high cost of high end stuff these days.
This is an oversimplification, but the answer is tubes.
Tubes is as easy a short answer as any. 👏👏👏
I'd take a bet that if you got rid of the Edge amp and replace it with a tube amp or maybe even something from the Pass XA line much of the magic would return. Also, definitely consider going back to the PAD cables.
It seems from the description and lingering regret that the power amplifier change is a meaningful factor. I can't imagine the Edge amp sounds anything like an Airtight el34 amplifier. One variable but a significant one I believe. I think your missing that fine tube amplifier.
02-05-15: Jmcgrogan2
I am not familiar with your speakers though, do they have ribbon tweeters? Perhaps this may be causing problems too.
Good guess, John. Yes, they do, and it appears that the crossover point to the ribbons is at a relatively low 1900 Hz.

Communique1, the one suggestion I would offer is that before going to an EL34-based or other tube amp, first try to research whether others are using these particular speakers successfully with tube amps. I couldn't find an impedance curve for the CL2i or any other Volent speakers, but its specs (4 ohm nominal impedance, 88 db efficiency on a per watt (rather than 2.83 volt) basis, 180 watt power handling) are somewhat suggestive of the possibility that it may be designed to perform best with solid state amplification.

Also, I would suspect that its impedance rises significantly in the vicinity of the crossover point (1900 Hz). If so, the interaction of that impedance variation with the relatively high output impedance of a tube amp will result in greater emphasis of frequencies in that vicinity than would result from interaction with the negligibly small output impedance of most solid state amps. Increased emphasis of frequencies around 1900 Hz is likely to be perceived as increased brightness, which is not what you want.

I'm not saying that a tube amp wouldn't be helpful, or would be the wrong thing to do. I'm just suggesting caution.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al
As I understand it, ribbon and/or folded ribbon tweeters also tend to be very directional and frequency response can vary widely with location. Worth taking note assuming to be true in this particular case.
Also, I think in line with Al's point, I always find crossover points in the midrange where most music occurs to work against musicality overall, unless very well designed and executed. Even then, it can only usually hurt and not help. Take a look a the musical frequency respone chart on the internet to get an idea of at what frequencies most music occurs.

That in conjunction with a highly directional tweeter could be a double whammy. The remedy for a directional tweeter is to be even more cognizant of room acoustics and listening position than otherwise, and then play with placement, tilt, orientation, etc. accordingly.
Link to Musical Frequency Chart
Thanks everyone for your input so far. What I miss the most is that 3d image that puts the artist in the room with you as though you're at the performance. By coincidence I got turned on to a group of local audiophiles with much deeper pockets than mine. I had the opportunity to go, listen and pickup a pair of Antique Sound Labs Cadenza DT 845 Mono amps. Upon first listen last night they were no where near as transparent as the Edge G8+ I have...makes me appreciate them even more. BUT, these babies image like crazy. I've yet however to check bias, etc. Unfortunately war made listening a lesser priority so I got rid of my "dream" system at the time, but I'm determined to return to the magic. It is hard to qualify the sound I'm looking for, bu as A former classical pianist a(in my youth) and stints in jazz and R&B bands in the seventies, I always listen for an emotional connection when I listen. I want the music to touch my emotions as well as my mind. Hard to describe, but I've heard this a few times with some systems.
Before you spend a lot of $$$ it might be that a Schumann Resonator could move the system in the direction you want to go. Acoustic Revive has the RR-777 and Kemp has the SR Plug. There are also units on E-Bay from other sources. I am using the older Acoustic Revive RR-77 in one of my systems and I would not want to be without it. I have tried and use a variety of high-end tweaks, but the Schumann unit has probably made the most difference in what I define as 'musicality'.
Couple years ago, a group of audiobuddies and I, all experienced listeners with high def systems, visited one of our kind who had just bought a RR-777. We spent quite a while trying to hear what he said he heard and there were many A/B comparisons. Not saying he DIDN'T hear it, but it was awfully subtle. I'm not sure whether he still uses it or not.
As with any audio tweak or device it's probably best to throw out the negative results since they are outliers. As long as the trend is that most folks hear something then I'm pretty much on board. The trend is your friend.
You sound like an experienced audiophile but I have to ask...

Have you exhausted set up possibilities, i.e. speakers far out into the room, triangulated listening position/speaker location, wall treatments, toe in, etc? A few inches can make a big difference.

I find that a lot of guys just locate replacement speakers where the last speakers worked well and assume that is the best location. Unfortunately it doesn't work that way too often.
Newbee,
I have been into the "hi-end" since the late seventies. You are correct in your assessment of speaker placement and I have a dedicated music room under construction as I write this to make such placement optimal. My main issue beside imaging is tonality and since I'm just spending day 2 with my new Antique Sound Labs Cadenza DT's, I've gotten the body and soul back into my music! In the current room presence has increased exponentially...all with only a change in the amplifiers from Edge G8+'s.
Before making equipment changes why don't you wait until the dedicated room is finished and then try to optimize? It's not a sprint, it ain't even a race.
Hi Communique1, The simple act of changing the power amplifiers made a huge difference. I'm not surprised by your improvements via removing the Edge amplifier. Upon reflection, you probably aren't surprised either.
Regards,
In addition to the above, check your power quality, if it's bad it'll kill the music as well.