Help with upgrade path


I'm looking for some help and ideas with upgrading my system:-
Alchemy DDS Pro Transport
Alchemy Dti Pro 32 anti-jitter with PS2
Ead 7000III DAC
Conrad Johnson CAV50 Integrated
QLN Signature splitfield with external x-over
Various cables, vibrapods, Lothian supports

For those not familier with the QLN speakers, they are a very well regarded Swedish speaker, monitor, something like Talons.....nice imaging and stage with great bass for a monitor.

I'm OK with the general sound but want to build more on the present qualities of the system. Looking for stage improvements in width and depth, with improvements in imaging.
I listen at fairly loud levels so the stage tends to scale-down when I crank up the volume, and the sound becomes a little too 'confused'.
So I'm thinking perhaps the amp is the first thing to go. I prefer the tube sound over solid state, and really like the warm, lush quality of the CJ....some suggestions on how to move up in amp quality, retaining the tube sound would be really appreciated.

Also, I like the digital front end, particularly with the recent addition of the Dti Pro, but I can't help wondering if I should ditch the 3 boxes and go for a good upsampling CD player like the Musical Fidelity???? Any ideas on this would be appreciated. What kind of improvements might I expect with modern digital gear??

Or....perhaps keep the amp and digital and look for speakers that are more sensitive (QLN's are about 87db) that will give me better stage depth, width, imaging and hold everything in place when the volume goes up.

I have about 4-5K to spend on Audiogon, and would really appreciate some input and ideas.

Many Thanks!

My guess is that you are correct in your assumption that the amp is compressing the sound at louder and/or complex passages.

You say you like the sound of tubes but as with everything there are trade-offs especially at certain price points.

Congestion and compression are some of the trade-offs. Rolled off or soft/rounded bass, rolled off or veiled or smeared highs are other trade-offs. That goes for some to many solid state amps and pre-amps as well as some to many tubes.

I would highly recommend a McCormack DNA 0.5 Revision A or DNA-1 Revision. Both are solid state but have a sound that is neither tube nor solid state in their sonic signature.

There is a used DNA-1 Rev. A for sale on agon at $1900 right now at:

And I would recommend that you check out Steve McCormack's web-site ( to determine for yourself the quality of such a rebuild as this.

Either amp should knock your socks off so to speak. Providing a robust and solid bass region, warm mids, and crystal clear highs without any congestion or compression at higher volume levels.

That $1900 for the amp would also allow you to purchase a very nice pre-amp such as a used Pass Labs X-2.5 or X-1 for about $2200 or a used SimAudio Moon P-5 for about the same. Three outstanding and highly-rated pre-amps that retail for $4000, $6000, and $4500 new respectively.

These two purchases alone should be enough to catapult your system into a completely different category.

Want a major upgrade? try analog, sound familiar? well it is the truth.
A dealer friend of mine just told me he has a friend that is a engineer. He had a newer,highly modded,high end CD player, and wanted my dealer friend to hear it. So they compared it to a first generation yamaha 44.1 no oversampling cd unit
When they compared them the engineer guy said he heard A big difference the dealer man said he did not. Well! the engineer fellow became upset and said you can't hear that!! so off to the blind test. Under the blind test the engineer fellow could not tell which was which, and when he finally thought he could, he was wrong.

If you compare a good analog front end to any digital source you will always be able to tell them apart. Ofcourse analog is not as convenient as cd ...only better.

To some worth all the fuss in pursuit of the best.

Food for thought? This is a suggestion, and not meant to upset those who prefer CD. Because of the recent advancements in analog, the price of admission to the high end has now come down to levels real people can afford it. but you will not read about many of these products in stereophile ect., but here on Audiogon you will.
Thanks Stehno and Rockinroni.....I'll read up on the McCormack amp, it sounds like that may be a good step forward.
Also, thanks for your input Rockinroni on the analog angle. I completely agree. I had a Linn LP 12 for 14 years, and stupidly sold it to raise some cash. I'm now thinking of getting back into analog with a new VPI Scout - there's a deal for $1800 with arm and cartridge.
I still need to work on the basic problems with the sound of my system, and I do think the amp is at fault.

I'd like to suggest taking a look at your AC first if you haven't already done so. Dedicated lines, upgraded outlets & PC's should at the very least let you hear what your system is capable of.

For the specifics of listening at higher volume some more headroom with a bigger amp and a tube pre will probably get you closer to what you're searching for.
Carl- You've received some excellent advice, especially from Driver, concerning improving your power system first. However, given the sensitivity of your speakers and your proclivity to listen at higher spl, ultimately you'll probably need a "healthier" amp. Remember, if you like the sound of tubes, no ss amp is going to do it for you.

I would suggest that you consider a larger, preferrably dual-mono design or mono-block, push-pull tube amp in the 75 to 120 wpc range. If you change your speakers at sometime for something more efficient and an easy load to drive, I'd recommend that you consider one of the higher power SET amps, but that is just my preference.

As for source equipment, a decent phono front-end is very enjoyable. Your digital would be the last thing to sink more money into at this point in time. However, the mods that are available for the Jolida, Shanling, Xindak, and the Njoe Tjoeb can make these exceptional performers at affordable prices.

As always, just one man's opinion. Enjoy.
Driver offers some very good suggestions and I would highly recommend them for anybody wanting to get the most out of their system.

However, the situation Rooze describes has nothing directly to do with line-conditioning, dedicated lines, audio-grade outlets, etc.. Instead, it has everything to do with one or more faults within one or more of the components.

I am one of the biggest advocates for line-conditioners and AC tweaks that I know of. But I am not aware of any line-conditioner and/or AC tweak that will correct a specific weakness or fault such as compression found within the component itself.