cables cables cables....
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Ditch the Thiels - they are famous for your complaints and changing upstream equipment won't change anything that much (but you can get rid of some of the brightness by buying very high quality amps, preamps, and sources. Go that way and when you really get tired of them you will have some electronics that will sound worth while on your replacement of the Thiels with a more neurtal or warmish toned speaker. Been there, done that with CS3.5's. Loved them at the dealers and bought them, loved them even more when I sold them several years later after getting 2 new amps, a pre-amp and a source or two. Bought some panels and never looked back. Had beautiful natural Rosewood cabinets though! Even my wife liked them.
Take out your 1.5" thick butcher block cutting board from the kitchen and put it under your rotel CD player and also try one under your preamp. If your components are on MDF, I found that it sucks the life out your components when damping.
You could also change out the tubes in your sonic frontiers preamp to warm things up.
You might see about getting an estimate to fix the B&K as I spent $160 repairing my Carver amp which was only worth $140... and I regretted spending the money since I could have sold it by stating "Broken Carver" and someone would have spent 20-40 for it to use it as a project or fix it themselves.
Tube amp, Cardas cables, room treatments.
I'm surprised that you want to loose details - thin blanket over speakers will do. It will kill both details AND brightness.
90% of people want warm and detailed sound which is very difficult to achieve. I prefare neutral detailed sound. Warm sound (stronger even harmonics) is not very good for instruments with complex overtones like piano. Piano can sound "out of tune" on very warm system. On the other hand guitar and voice sound great.
Move a different speaker. Thiel's are known to have a highly "analytical" sound. With Theils, that is an end unto itself. This echos my own experience with them. It's universal across the product line or at least every model I've heard.
People like 'em but where I saw them become well-known is with their "time-aligned" drivers. Which in theory sounds good and is possibly the main contributer to the Theil house sound, but I believe without that they would not have become well-known because they don't sound good at least to the majority of people I've talked with about them.
Replace the amp since its dead anyway. Change the cables next (the cardas suggestion is a good one), then if that has not sufficiently fixed your problem change out the Thiels. I owned the Thiel 1.5s and they can sound heavenly if properly matched but they do lean toward the forward and bright side. Next, change out your CD player. Then change out the power cords. Then start over and do it all again. Then if you're like me, you still won't be happy, so run a couple of dedicated circuits. Then repeat this process a third and forth time until you have spent your kid's inheritance.
I wonder how many of the responders recommending cable changes have owned the small Thiels. My first "hi-end" speakers were a pair of Thiel 1.5s. I was immediately struck by and in love with their detail and clarity. After a few months I couldn't finish one cd, thought my ears would bleed. It's a pity as the company is an excellent company to deal with. The speaker that replaced them at that time were Vandersteen 1Cs, no fatigue and an absolute bargain at the used price.
My usual recommendation was a speaker with a fabric tweeter until I bought a pair of Revel M20s. Detail with no pain so far. There are too many good speakers out there so you should experiment.
Check out a pair of Magnepan MG12QR's or 1.6QR's. Read the latest Absolute sound about them. The B&K's are not bright amps at all. If you have a competent repair station there have them repair it. But call B&K and they will give you some idea of how much. Of course they will be able to turn it around more quickly too I'm sure. The mosfets are out there but can be hard to get.
I have a friend that had his B&K 140 monoblocks repaired last month and the output on one channel was gone because of a resistor that went belly up.
You may want to change the tubes in your SF SFL1 preamp to a warmer tube too.
I actually got a Scott Nixon Tube DAC and I'm using it instead of the built in DAC on my DVD/CD player and it has taken all the edge off my digital playback system period. I was using a Pioneer DVD 563 but I have an Oppo 980H Now. Wonderful with the DAC. No edge or brightness. I changed the digital cable between my dac and DVD player too to Vampire wire.
Last with the cables try some very good quality copper cables an wire instead of silver cables.
The Scott Nixon DAC may be the best solution after getting the B&K's fixed. Then Try some Maggies. They may surprise you.
The Thiels can be tamed but you have to play with them. It does take time. TUBES for the warmth factor.
Be sure if you are using CD as source to use only very well recorded ones as your reference for violin etc. That way you can more easily determine whether the edginess is in your equipment or the recording. See if you can borrow any other speaker that doesn't have the ear bleed reputation and see if you like the sound with your equippment. That will tell you if a speaker change would help you as much as suggested in the previous posts about Theil.
I still believe that the dieing amp is a must.
I mean.....its days are counting. It seems like opportunity to try different amps and see what's out there. Fatigue could also be associated with non presence of any acoustic treatment. Front wall(behind the spk.) and first reflections (sides and ceiling) a must for any audio system.
I am not doubting that Thiels colored heights and overall characteristics are in fault because my inexperience with these speakers in general.
However some things can be improved with one way or the other. I would move in small steps if I was Patch 1980.
It is part of growing up. Let it happened gradually...
The Thiels are going to be very detailed. A positive for listening to classical music, maybe a negative for jazz and rock. Ultimately depends upon your personal preferences and musical tastes.
Before getting rid of them, you should spend some time with speaker positioning. Remove the toe-in, move them farther apart, and sit farther away. Sometimes even a few degrees of toe-in can make the difference. It will probably take several weeks of positioning to get them tuned.
I would pin most of the blame on the Thiels. In my early audiophile days, I was a Theil owner (mid-80's, model O3A). At that time I was also getting interested in classical music and it became very apparent that the Thiel's would not produce violins naturally - they always had a glare and edge in the top end that was fatiguing. The Theil sound signature continues to this day IMO. In recent years I've had Spendor SP 1/2E's which are very musical (but lack the deepest bass) and now the Vandersteen 3A Sigs which give the whole package - very natural high end, great soundstaging and wonderful bottom end. For less money, the Vandy 2CE Sigs are also very good. So my advice is to change your speakers first. Next, I'd suggest a decent tube amp. Good luck.
I once had the same problems as you now experience . I had spent money on well respected equipment that did not please me . It sounded good in the store but soon after bringing it home I did not like it nearly as much ! I discovered that some CD's were now unlistenable . So I found this forum , read , asked a bunch of dumb questions and learned .
I then took this knowledge and listened to as many equipment setups as was possible . I soon learned a few things .
First , I much prefered speakers with soft dome tweeters rather than the metal ones I had purchased . This alone was probably worth 30% - 40% percent of an improvement of my listening exsperience !
Second , I prefered tubes to SS . I started with one in the pre section of an integrated amp . It was a little better . Then I moved to a tubed CDP , another improvement . Then I went all of the way with a tubed integrated amp . Much much better . I can now listen to CD's that were relegated to the 'for sale' stack and enjoy them !
And it is possible to get detail and warmth together without loosing musicality . I found this out with the purchase of a second Int. amp that had better extension , detail and low level resolution . I am now rolling tubes to increase the warmth .
I think of tuning , in the audio world , the same as tuning in the automotive world . It does not fix a malfunctioning setup . Tuning is what you do to get the last few percent improvement to maximize what you already have and enjoy . You wouldn't put a new set of hi-performace wheels and tires on a car that runs so poorly it won't get you around the block ! So you wouldn't put new cables on an audio system that you deem unlistenable !
If I were to do it again , I think that I would go the all tube route first . Sort of one extreme to the other . Then if it was too much back out of it one piece at a time . YMMV .
No flames please , just my opinion here .
Good luck .
Changing a cable or any other components in a system is the "normal" read expensive audiophile "FIX".....
Many times we don't realize that the room imparts it's characteristic to the sound we hear and might be a "veil" that doesn't allow you to assess the true potential or difference in sound with your current standard.
Any future component you change / acquire / borrow will benefit of a proper set room.
I can't imagine the amp is the root of your problem (ie lack of warmth/musicality). You're not likely to find an amplifier that's warmer than the B&K M200 without spending ~$1000+, and even at that price SS amps aren't likely to bring more warmth and musicality (at least I haven't found one). Tubes may be the way for you to go.
As for repairing your dead amp, have you checked all of the Fuses? I would check all of the fuses first. This includes the rail fuses inside the amp. You'll likely need to remove the driver board to check them, so if you're not comfortable with this, you can send it back to B&K or take it to a tech. Don't just visually check them, use a continuity checker. If it's just fuses, or something simple it will probably cost you $100 plus shipping (they'll do a complete checkup and bias for you while it's there). If your problem is with the output mosfets B&K probably won't be able to repair it - I don't think they're available anymore. I think the latter diagnosis will cost you ~50 plus shipping.
I think it's a coin toss as to whether you should repair or sell as is, and replace them. IMO it's worth repairing, but if I was interested in upgrading anyway, I would sell the M200s as is, and buy new amps.
One last thought - have you evaluated your room? Maybe room acoustics are to blame, at least partially.
Thank you all for your invaluable responses!
I was quite surprised by the number of posts!
I guess... the most cost effective way is to start with changing a tube then and check surroundings. My floor is carpet though. Maybe the window right next to my speaker is troublesome.
I sent back the BK m-200 to manufacturer (San Francisco to New York is quite expensive). I thought this was the easiest way to fix it.
Thank you all! I will post the update later!
If the Thiel 1.3 uses a metal dome tweeter then this may explain your problems with the violin - high Q resonance from a rigid diaphragm - it is a common problem with all light weight rigid diaphragms (ceramic, metal etc.).
Some designers (such as Audiophysic) use deep notch filters to try and eliminate this non-musical ringing, others (like Thiel) do not add notch filters because of the other phase issues they introduce, others (like accuton drivers) have rubber dampers on the cone itself, others use coatings instead of these visible rubber dampers, some have tried exotic shapes, some use a constrained layer approach (two rigid cones in a sandwich with a soft viscous fluid between the cones to dampen them).....all these efforts are to reduce the bell ringing from rigid light weight devices.
Why then do they use rigid light weight drivers? Becuase a rigid piston would be an ideal raditaing surface if it did not ring like a bell, and light weight drivers mean they can be coupled with small magnets and small motors and therefore are cheap to achieve a high level of efficiency.
This form of distortion can be particularly distracting and fatiguing because it is totally unreleated to the music. The more expensive the drivers the better this is controlled, however most speakers under $5,000 use drivers that cost the manufacturer around $50 wholesale... sound crazy....well it is even more crazy when you realize that the veneers and finishes are generally the most expensive cost of the speaker construction. Manufacturers know all to well that "how it looks" is often more important in sales than an extra 5% improvement in how it sounds. Audio furntiure is what audiophiles are mostly paying for. DIY'ers have known this for years....
I had the SFL-1 preamp connected to my system for a while a few years back. As you know the SFL-1 is a Hybrid. With a Sovtek or EH tube it will sound like a SS preamp. Change the tube to a NOS Mullard.... The preamp will sound like a tube preamp. Bet it will give you the sound you are looking for.
If memory serves me right the SFL-1 came new with two tubes. One Sovtek and one Mullard. I tried both and the Mullard won out hands down. [url=http://www.partsconnexion.com/]Email Chris Johnson[/url] and ask him which Mullard he would recommend.
There are plenty of people who have tame their Thiels. I agreed, it is way easier to get rid of the them than dealing with all the work and money to get them to sing. But isn't that what audiophiles do anyway, regardless if they own Thiels or not, spend time and money on their rigs?
I ageed wtih the above post, since you are replacing your amp anyway, start with that before selling the Thiels. Room treatment is a must, regardless what speakers you are running. As far as replacing cables, I like Harmonic Tech cables with Thiels.
Anyway, here are a few things you can do before upgrading any of your components.
/ dedicated lines
/ room treatment
/ good audio rack
These few things will make any system better.
In amps and preamps, the mechanism that contributes most to a situation of harsh detail is emphasis of the odd-ordered harmonics that the ear uses as loudness cues.
These harmonics tend to be emphasized by transistors and the use of global negative feedback. So if a warm sound is desired, that will be an important step- limiting those influences in the system.
Generally this means tubes, although it does not have to- Nelson Pass' First Watt amps are examples. But one thing is sure- if a move to such amplifiers is made, the speakers will have to go, as they will be incompatible with the power amplifiers (tube or solid state) that can do the job right.
For more info see:
The dilemma with Thiels is that they easily become edgy and bright, yet need SS amps to drive them. One compromise I've heard of is to use a tubed preamp with an SS amp.
The other thing no one's talked about is that if you have a mid-fi CD player as your source and Thiels at the other end, such a system is going to set your teeth on edge.
I get a more pleasing digital sourced sound by using iTunes instead of a CD player, either from the computer or downloaded to my iPod Touch (encoded in ALC).
It's not detail that's irritating per se, it's how the detail is presented. I've found that a higher resolution system can actually sound *warmer* because you get more of the low level dynamics, instrument resonance, and room ambience that all warm up the overall sound and presentation. But if there's a harsh edge or midrange glare--something that mid-priced Redbook CD players and Thiels all too frequently share--that system will be a relief to turn off.