I need help, please? Listening to my system through music!


Hey all,

Please indulge me as I'm having an audio/identity crisis of sorts here. Maybe you can empathize, maybe it's just first world problems.

So, for several years up until earlier this summer, I was more or less happy and content with my audio set up:
  • Acoustic Zen Adagios
  • LSA Statement integrated (I tube rolled it)
  • Jolida JD9 Mk2 phono
  • Oppo 105 BDP
  • VPI HW19 Mk4 with Benz Ace cartridge
  • AZ and Decware cabling

It was my steady system for about 3 years after going through different many speaker/amp/tt/ combinations.

And then, based on several conversations with AZ founder Robert Lee and several Audiogon members, I became convinced that I needed to go the SET route for my Adagios. I auditioned Steve Deckerts' Decware amps and liked what I heard, but Mr. Lee recommended Triode Corp. amps, so when one popped up on Audiogon I grabbed it and sold my LSA Statement.

Now, the LSA is an understated star in the integrated world; it's a hybrid, dual-mono platform, perfected by Larry Staples and John Tucker of Exemplar Audio and delivers 150w of transparent power. The Triode Corp is a pure tube, 35w SET design with good reviews and Mr. Lee's endorsement. I tube rolled the input tubes in the Triode and then let it burn in for a while, even though I bought it used from a reputable Audiogon dealer.

Result? The bass the LSA delivered is missing. There's also clipping/distortion on the higher end. I took it to the local audio shop who biased everything and checked connections, etc. and gave it the thumbs up. But same result. It's a different sound than the LSA. It's not bad, per se; it's just not a full or comprehensive or satisfying. had I not had the LSA, I would have been pretty happy with the Triode.

You don't know what you got 'til it's gone.

MAYBE as a result, I really don't listen to music as much as I used to, if at all. I can't remember the last time I went on Discogs or to the local music store or even ordered any music on Amazon. I can't remember the last time I went down to my listening room and just enjoyed a recording. So, my questions are:

  1. Am I just over-reacting? And should I just sell the Triode and go for another amp and get over it? I'd rather not get the LSA again; I hate gong back to something I once had.
  2. Is hi-end audio, a hobby for the last 20 years, receding like many things do in our lives and now is no longer as paramount as it used to be?
  3. Is this a classic case of someone using music to listen to their system?
  4. Anyone else have these audiophile mid-life crisis issues?

Thanks for your patience and insight.

Warm regards,

Simao




simao
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Sounds like some disappointment exists now where little or none did previously. Sorry to hear it. It happens.

Although speakers can work with a goodly number of amps, how well, or just how, is another matter entirely. Was price a consideration here going for these new SET amps? Because there are SET amp, and then there are, yeah, SET amps. As with all amps I suppose.

If… as said, all is well with amp and speakers, and all was checked out technically to confirm this, the existing truth has to be the amp is not optimal for the speakers. Certainly not on those levels or areas you would prefer.

So something has gotta give to get the toes tapping again.

I briefly heard the Adagio monitors pushed by Carey 50 or 60wpc (?) tube amp and being a devotee of bottom end response, was left lwanting, but for what it all was, it did sound pretty decent.

I’ve also heard the AZ floor standing versions of the model mentioned here being pushed by EAR 100wpc amp with Frankenstein Pre. Gorgeous looking speakers, but I came away feeling they needed more power to sing. It was a nice, pleasant sound but just not provocative. I did easily see a lot of potential with the Adagios… or the next step up, the Creshendos. Their finish alone was stunning. Some sort of glossy burled (?) antural cherry. Lovely indeed.

Moving on to another variety of SS sounds like a very good idea too. Which one is always the worry or concern. If any of the current SET’s performance has entertained you, despite the electronic short comings, I’d say look into hybrid amps which use a limited amount of tubes plus SS power. If possible.

It would not be merely another SS amp, and not truly all tube power, but would be different than previous power yet enable the control and extension those adagio’s need or at least, seem to enjoy..

If sticking with tubes is now an interest, look into PP amps with 75 and above watts.

Lastly, I was impressed by the bottom end the EAR glass amp produced pushing the tall floor standing glossy Adagios. Very impressed. I’ve always felt the Isoclean power conditionining detracted from the overall audition, but that’s just IMO.

Very good luck on the next step.


You know what you need to do, so do it: new amp with more power. Who recommended what doesn’t matter if you’re not loving it.. you are the final authority on what is good and what is not in your system.

And why have an arbitrary rule about not going back to the same piece of equipment? You know you like it, you know it works well.. the alternative is a bunch of auditioning. Which you might enjoy. But it doesn’t sounds like you’re looking forward to it.. it just sounds like you want your system’s soul back.

I use a class A tube pre and class D monos and love the combo. Warmth, resolution and imaging from the tubes, power, control and space from the class D.

Whichever path you end up taking, I hope you enjoy the journey and get to where you want to be..
Triode makes some awesome gear; I have heard stunning systems with it at shows. It should theoretically be very good with the AZ speakers. 

Have you tried swapping out your loom of cables? If not, then do that before giving up. Also, power cords. Frankly, I suggest you try at least 2 different looms/sets of cables. Then try mixing them. That can address the problems you have. 

I am not interested in arguing about my advice. 
I think you should look for a push pull tube integrated or separates with something north of 60 watts.
I like listening to high performance audio, enjoy reading about it,admiriring all the uber gear and the hobby aspect. If Ihad the financial means, I would own a rack of simply over the top, ridicoulsy expensive gear, along with giant speakers.

I don't however, but I've amassed a $20K(retail)  system that is close enough, to what we read about and see at shows.

In the end however, if one can't simply enjoy the music, and admit this is a silly hobby, you're not a true MUSIC fan. Of course, just MY opinion.

If you have to listen to music only through "audiophile" stuff, then yeah, you're listening to your system, not the music.

My active listening began at age 7 when I started Classical piano lessons in 1969 and hearing my brothers Beatles and Stones records on a seemingly big as a Buick, tube powered Grundig.

By my early 20's, I made certain I had good bugdet crap, good,enough to enjoy the music.

Bach or Led Zeppelin sound great through my Ipad or the rig.



I’ve heard the Triode Corp amplifiers with the Acoustic Zen Crescendos and the sound was superb. However in your case you aren’t happy with the sound and most importantly you are listening less to music. I would sell the amplifier and return to your prior amplifier. You must trust what you hear. You were happy with the LSA  Statement amplifier.
Charles
Well I think there are two things going on here...

1. Subconsciously you're not listening to music because you don't enjoy the reproduction you're hearing. It is like listening to Pandora, at least for me, I can't do it.

2. You may have a pairing issue with your amp/speakers. There are some great amps that just pair very poorly with some speakers and vice versa.

I have a Decware Torii Jr. which is very forgiving of the speakers attached, it is paired with an HR-1 and man they just sound sublime. However I bet there are some that wouldn't enjoy the reproduction of my system because they are hybrid radials.

I would make a list of what you're looking for in your music reproduction, think about what you enjoy most of listening to music. When you close your eyes, what gives you goosebumps?

Post the list back here, and then lets come up with some ideas.
I'm not familiar with your gear but when I upgraded my amplifier's power cord and installed a dedicated 20 amp circuit for the amp, the bass response noticeably improved. Not saying day and night difference but definitely audible.  
YMMV.

I'm wondering what Triode Corp amp you got that is 35wch SET, I don't see any thing close to that power in a SET on the site. Some nice looking PP amps at that Watt range.

Also your speakers are only rated at 89db, the speakers web site says 6ohms nominal impedance,  but for SET that's really not efficient enough you need upwards of 94-95db to really make it work even then closer to 100db is better.


I think you have classic under powered situation. like others have said you need 50-100wch. I would not give up on tubes though done well they can truly sound great.  look to AR, Cary, CJ, etc for more tube power. Class A solid state I bet would sound great too. Luxman, Acuphase, PassLabs, etc. in that 30-50wch Class A ss would work well.  

Thank you all, for the sage advice and questions. The Triode in question is a Triode Corp TRV-88SE. It’s a push-pull design, not an SET and, based on all the advice and evidence, it looks as if it just may not be powerful enough for the Adagios. Mr. Lee said anything 35wpc or over would suffice, but it’s still a huge decrease from 150wpc, especially if that 45wpc of the TRV-88SE is PP and not SET.

Idk; I’m probably talking out of my a-- here. I do know, though, that the sound is def. not as easy or full as before. I wonder if it’s also a poor match for the Jolida phono? I’ve tried all the different loadings the Jolida offers, though the Benz is rated at 47K ohms.

Ironically enough, my very same LSA Statement is now for sale here on Audiogon from the buyer I sold it to, though I’m not in a financial position to buy it this month.
I have similar regrets. I had a pair of Thiel CS 2 2s and traded them off because I wanted to go with tubes. I should have kept the speakers and put more money into a better amp.

Speaking of amps, how new is this amp you bought? If it’s relatively new, you might wait until you’ve put about 50hrs worth of listening thru it. Can you leave the amp on, in Standby, for a long period of time while you’re home? That will go a long ways towards getting the amp, broken-in. Every yr, I shutdown my system for Lent and I don’t listen again until Easter morning. Every Easter morning, I think ’what a colossal waste of money.' But after about 10hrs, the magic is back. It’s amazing how these systems are like a muscle. If they don’t get used, especially speakers, they get tight and need to relax again before sounding good. Anyway, give that amp some time and see if the joy returns.
One comment regarding the Triode Corp is that they offer different lines or tiers of price and quality. TRV and the upper scale TRX models. I’ve only heard the TRX versions and they are superb but admittedly considerably more expensive. The TRX have much larger and better power supplies and transformers. The TRV are nice but definitely more value oriented. TRX is the more ambitious line.
Charles
http://www.acousticzen.com/products/loudspeakers/floorstanding

The manufacturer rates the Zens at 89 db, 6ohms and minimum amp rating of 50 watts.
What inspired you to go so far off base with that amp?  I don't think even 60 watts would do it for you.  Doubling the wattage will only get you another 3db.  Are you using 4 ohm taps or 8?  Play around, it might help.
I think, there was something that you disliked but it is possible that you got rid of the wrong piece. It is also possible that you are in fact on a quest for different sound, maybe not completely different but much more satisfying. One thing is certain - you definitely didn't want less poweful sound, perhaps you wanted more powerful bigger sound but also more sophisticated. Perhaps the one that your speakers may be unable to deliver. You talked to the speaker designer and said - do something, your speakers no longer give me what I want -.
Well, if I am right you may have to start building a new system. Mid-life, crisis or not.
Based upon Simao’s dilemma this is why I hesitate to sell equipment until I can do a listening comparison, current equipment vs new or new to me equipment. I realize sometimes one must sell equipment in order to purchase other equipment however I try to avoid that.
I hope you find what sounds best to you.
@hifiron -- I walk the line between clinical and holistic: I like pinpoint imagery - like knowing exactly where each tom is on the drumset and hearing the bassist' fingers slide down the strings. I also want warm nuances and enveloping presence. And pigs will fly eventually considering my budget.

@elevick I don't know. It wasn't a question of the LSA being deficient by any means. More so just wanting to see how another sound was.

@inna Yes, I think that's what happened.

Again, the Triode is a fine piece. With properly sensitive speakers, it should sound beautiful. I've listed it with confidence. Thank you for all your sound advice.
Oh, any thoughts on the Conrad Johnson CA-150 or ET-250?
Don't listen to anyone but yourself.  Too many people on these pages don't know what they're talking about and you've suffered emotion and financial loss.   See a lawyer.   ( I don't think you have a case since you acted with free will)
@simao well with your description, how I would build a setup with a minimal budget would be quite simple.

You need transparency, good imaging.

1. Ensure you have a good source.
2. $1295 Decware SE84UFO http://www.decware.com/newsite/SE84CKCS.html
3. $2695 Decware HDT are support to be unreliable in the imaging department. http://www.decware.com/newsite/HDT.html
3b. $1995 Decware Full Range Horns http://www.decware.com/newsite/HORN.html
3c. $450 Decware Betsy http://www.decware.com/newsite/Caintuck.html

I know I have been talking up Decware quite a bit, but I find it very hard to beat their price/performance ratio.


Several of the previous posters - nailed it. I can relate. I have the AZ Adagio Jrs. along with powered subs. For years, I drove them with 50w/ch push/pull tube monoblocks. The rig sounded great for mellow music but it didn’t have the mid-bass punch for R&R or reggae. One day, I took my speakers to a local B&M dealer to hear different options. With each amp, there was a different presentation. From his offerings, I decided to purchase a 100w/ch Class A SS amp. It reminded me of tubes, but worked well with the kickdrum. Now, the rig shines with all types of music. This includes a tube preamp. Things got even better when I upgraded most of the cabling to synergize with the new SS amp. It took about a year or so of swapping brands to find what worked best for my ears. While I was at it, I improved all of the power supplies, too. My tube monoblocks are parked in the closet, just in case.

Years ago, one of the Adagio Jrs needed repair. (I accidentally knocked it off the Sound Anchor stand.) Being local, I drove to the AZ headquarters outside San Diego. Robert Lee and his son could not have been more generous with their hospitality and fast turnaround. Excellent customer service! Every year, I would visit the AZ room at T.H.E. Show in Newport Beach. The last time in 2016, the Crescendos were powered by one of the Triode amps. (I don’t know which one.) As I left the room, I was thinking that my system actually sounded better than what I just heard. It sounded slow and overly-lush. Hilary Hahn’s violin had no finesse - nor any other music with which I was familiar. Just goes to show that it’s all subjective.

Re: music lapse/crisis   Not to worry.   “To Everything There Is a Season."
@hifiron - Yes, I agree with your assessment of Decware equipment. I visited Steve up near Peoria and spent a pleasant afternoon with him auditioning the Torii and his Styx cables.  I've since bought the Styx cables but have yet to take a chance on the Torii. If/when the Triode sells, I may return to it.

@steakster Thanks for the feedback. I agree with your perception of Mr. Lee - he was such an accommodating and real person when we were doing business!
Hey all,

So, I sold my Triode Corp and was a bit sorry to see it go as it performed so well with more efficient speakers. But now I'm out an amp. I could return to the LSA, but what other 100wpc+ amps could you recommend (tube or SS)? My budget is $2K-$3K used or new. I've outlined my listening habits and preferences earlier in this thread. Speakers are AZ Adagios.

I'm not worried about auditioning a piece first. Most of my components I bought based on advice and have been very happy with. If I'm not happy I can sell it and try again.

Thank you,

S
I would return to the LSA amp and start unbiased - as much as possible - evaluation of the entire system regardless of the consequences. I myself do it from time to time. By now I know that after upgrading one more pair of RCAs and power cords, I will have to do big upgrades to take it to another level. But since funds are very limited, I'll wait. If they were less limited I would first get a great tube phono stage and then speakers and amps. After that arm and cartridge. It is possible that your phono is not up to the task, and I am unfamiliar with your cables. Trying more different tubes could be beneficial too. But first you really need to know what exactly is not good enough. Just take your time, these things don't tolerate haste.
So - an update:

I went with a Hegel H160 integrated, my first completely solid state amplifier in years.

It sounds wonderful; lives up to the reviews and mates well with the Adagios. The Triode simply didn't have enough power for them, though it was a wonderful little tube gem in its own right.

So, I'm happy with the Hegel - a brand I hadn't even thought of until I started researching and asking questions.

Speaking of which, is there a way to bypass the Hegel's DAC in favor of my Oppo 105's DAC? I assume the latter is better than the former?

Thank you again,

s
Use the analog outputs from the Oppo into the Hegel. If you use the digital out from the Oppo into the Hegel, you will be using the Hegel DAC.

I've no idea which is better. But your ears do! Try them both
Congratulations on your new amp.  Enjoy!
Very glad to hear you're back to enjoying music and your 2ch!

Audiophiles listen at wildly different volume levels (and in different sized rooms), which can swing your power demands by orders of magnitude, and can also affect the perceived frequency response of the component. Often that's not factored in enough when system recommendations are considered.

I listen quite loud, and heavily tend to prefer very powerful amps. You were obviously struggling for power with the SET, and no manner of cable swaps or source upgrades were going to mitigate that. Going back to a powerful amp was a good move.
Had you thought of getting a tube amp that simply has enough power?

Clearly 35 watts was not enough, but tube amps are available with a lot more power :)

I would wait 'til you're not happy with the current setup though!
Hi @atmasphere . I've had an ARC VS-110, an LSA Statement (hybrid), and Rogue Audio Magnum M120 monos. I've loved them all but had to part with them over the years for reasons both financial and fickle. I've been curious about your amps, though; haven't heard a single detrimental thing about them on this board.
Yeah, me neither and his unassuming attitude and seemingly endless knowledge make me even more interested in his wares
@simao OK- the real question seems to be 'did you have any of those tube amps on the speaker and did it make the bass you were expecting?"

From what I can find of the speaker on the web it appears to be a moderate load. But often specs can be deceiving if not accompanied by at least an impedance curve of the speaker. My concern here is that the speaker has its woofers in parallel; this suggests that you really should be using the 4 ohm tap if you are using a transformer-coupled tube amp.

The efficiency of the speaker is not criminal but its pretty low- so you do need some power. I really think you're going to need at least 100 watts to make this fly and a lot depends on how lively your room is.