I need more cowbell....

looking for opinions on where I should go next for an upgrade. I am generally happy with my current setup, just looking for a tad more, maybe to get closer to live music. My current setup is:

Meridian 200 transport with Synergistic Master PC
Meridian 563 DAC with SR Master PC
conrad johnson premier 14 - stock GE tubes
Classe CA 200 with PS Audio Extreme Statement PC
Thiel 3.6 on audiopoints
Illuminati D60 digital IC
MIT 350 SG EVO dac to preamp
MIT 350 reference preamp to amp
MIT Magnum 2 speaker cables
Dedicated 20 amp lines
Target rack and amp stand

The sound is very non-fatguing, layered and transparant when the recording calls for it. Room is fairly neutral, large, concrete slab, it's only partially finished so there's not alot I can do. I'm luckey I have alot of room so the speakers are 10.5 feet apart which really lets them breathe. I'm thinking amp? Preamp, frontend? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Christopher Walken says: New speakers.
Trying some different interconnects might prove an interesting and worthwhile experiment...
err shouldn't that be Bruce Dickenson? 'I gotta fever and the only prescription is more cow bell'

Sorry pops, I don't have enough experience to comment or give guidance. I wish I did. Great thread title, BTW.
Audiopoints beneath Thiels are a great idea -- I found that they make a very noticeable difference. Glad you did that, but you already took my first recommendation. My second is to go to MIT and you already did that too. ;-)

So, let's go far deeper into the bag of tricks. First, how long have you had the 3.6's? If you are real handy, you may want to consider replacing the caps in the cross-overs. High quality caps all have their own sound -- you might want to contact Thiel and inquire about the need for replacements after x years, the type of recommended replacements and whether that should be done by a pro.

Second, I assume you've tweaked the speaker placements. If not, that's always a great thing to do -- and very time consuming. There are lots of good threads on that here.

Third, have you tried the Porter Ports? i.e., the cyrogenic outlets from Albert

Fourth, did you decide to stick with the stock tubes because you prefer them to others? If not, some tube rolling might be fun. Sorry I have no suggestions here but there may be threads on that topic (or you could start a separate one if no suggestions are forthcoming).

Fifth, what about acoustic treatments? Are you using any now?

Good luck.
Sounds like your happy with your speakers. Find a tube amp w/balls (bass) that can drive the Thiels and you might get something more musical out of them. I've always found Thiels sort of sterile w/ss amps, even vintage Thresholds, but they do need the current found in big SS amps. A good 160 to 200 wt tube amp could be just the thing to get you closer to music.
"I'm burnin' I'm burnin' for you"
Some time ago, I demo'ed a CJ 14 in my home. Way too subdued. Get rid of that preamp, and you're off to a good start.

I am always amazed when people ask for upgrade advice, folks give their opinions when it is never discussed what you like or don't like about your present system. When this happens it is a recipe for disaster. Like grasping in the dark, findin a needle in a .......... well, you get the picture

I would love to give you some suggestions, and I think others would to, but I think that it is really important to answer the above question as well as the type of music you like, volumes you listen at and musical reproduction values.

Afterwhich, the advice you get might actually address your needs. I hope this helps!
Hey Pops, don't fear the reaper!
Great answers guys - that bit on SNL always makes beer fly out my nose.

Ozfly - thanks for the suggestions - I have tube rolled and find the GE's sound best, warm yet airly, I've tried Mullards - too warm, hitachi's - burn out too soon. I'm using a homemade dispersion unit on the wall between speakers - I have 4 to 5 feet to the sides and have tried absorption but I don't think I need it. Porter Ports sound interesting. I've had the Thiels 3 years and bought em used - I think they were sold in 1993.

Newbee - I do like the speakers alot although they are a little dry - tubes might be in my future. I might move up the Thiel line eventually. They like alot of room and I've got that so they image like crazy, really fill up the stage.

Sheno - the premier 14 is warm - maybe too laid back?

Ramstl - I'm happy with the system just looking for maybe a little more presence, resolution. I listen to rock, classic rock, some alternative "Wilco", blues, some jazz, bluegrass/folk. I do play music loud most of the time.

Thanks for the advice. Give me some more!!
Aroc - I can't believe you pulled out Bruce Dickenson! That's impressive!!!!
Pops, you just made my night... I came home from work, pulled up Agon and saw this post. You gotta' love this hobby!
Try a Naim CD player, that'll get the system going. They're alive, I tell ya.

Way back when, I compared my Naim CD3.5 against the Meridian 508.24. I found the Meridian put a sheen on the music. It was beautiful with classical, especially choir, but the Naim beat it on presence and rhythm.

Good luck.
I'd go for an Audio research LS-16 Mk II (or if your really feeling like a sport, the LS-25 Mk II) coupled to a Plinius SA-102. I've listened to CJ preamps and never liked them. Also, I bought a Classe CA-300 and stashed my ARC Classic 60 in the closet.
A few months went by and I was auditioning some new speakers. I wondered how they would sound through the CL-60. I hooked 'em up and the difference blew me away.
The Classe went back to dealer and the CL-60 was back to stay (until the VT-100 came out).
I'd recommend tubes but almost everyone agrees your 3.6s need SS.
Try a silver I.C. or speaker cables.
If you're are pretty happy with your system as it is now, leave well enough alone. It looks like you're playing a pretty balanced game of "complimentary colourations" from what i can see here. Either that or get ready for a LOT more experimentation and purchasing. I think that if you change one aspect of operation in this system, you would then find that you have another potential problem. Sean
My suggestion: Get a better rack (e.g. the GPA Monaco) and try a really good power conditioner (I like my BPT 3.5 Signature). The combination of these 2 items pushed my system from 'very good' to 'outstanding'.
Calanctus is right on the money regarding his two suggestions for a performance-oriented racking system and line conditioners.

But as critical as his suggestions are, it should not necessarily negate the need to replace that very subdued preamp.

With such a preamp as this, you may not even notice the tremendous benefits that a good racking system and line conditioners will provide.

A certain caliber of equipment is required to maximize the the tremendous benefits of a racking system and line conditioners and vice versa.

I put my system together one component at a time, just like you. Only, when mine's finished, it plays gold records.
Matt8268 - Classic!

Sean - good point, I think your right.

Maybe a new preamp, I'll start researching...any suggestions besides ARC, I do think I would stick with tubes. Although, what about spectral? You don't see much on the A'Gon about Spectral.

I did have silver IC's for a while, KCAG and KCTG. They worked really well but could get a little glare going on some music.

Thanks for the advice.
The majority of components have the same weakness, lack of high-frequency dynamics. This is what gets you the cow bell. This is not frequency response, but transient response. Your components are good circuit designs, all of them and you have obviously made good choices. However, dont expect to replace them and remedy this problem. There is also probably some sibilance that is preventing a "black background" due to cables and source.

Dont get me wrong. It is possible to approach liveness if you have $200K to spend on equipment and cables. However, the smart road to liveness IMO is mods, particularly the front end and amps.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
If you change your preamp to something that isn't as warm and sweet sounding, you're going to end up having to change at least one other item mentioned in your list of components. I'm not saying which piece it is, but i see it as a sore spot in any system that strives towards neutrality.

Right now, the sonics of the preamp are probably balancing out / masking the sonic signature of this other component. As such, changing one without changing the other may be a step towards a LESS enjoyable and natural sounding system. Make sure that your money is right before you make a move on something like the preamp, because another expenditure will be right behind it.

Other than that, i agree with some of the comments mentioning the support structure that your gear resides on. A good support structure benefits ANY system but whether or not those results will be completely realized is up to the system itself.

If you like your existing rack, and there's no reason not to other than lack of adjustability / versatility, you might want to check into experimenting with various shelf materials. This can be done using different types of wood or other materials for not that much money and the results can be quite staggering / educational. If you want to get fancier with possibly better results, you might want to check into something along the lines of aftermarket shelving materials.

My suggestion would be to think along the lines of materials that have good rigidity, are non-ferrous in nature and offer low mass with high levels of internal self-damping. These suggestions apply both to the various woods / materials that you tinker around with on your own or with the pre-assembled shelving. This is a hard set of requirements to achieve for any one given material, so take that as a hint. Sean

PS... Should you want to discuss any of this further, feel free to drop me an email. Just be patient with me as i'm way back-logged on getting through some of my responses.
Thanks Sean....I'm like the fly.....Help me, Help me
You need more Cowbell!
Wow, I need some great wild sex with a beautiful blonde!

Geez,with a setup like that ,if it did everything I want and was good synergisticly I would not change a wire.

I'd ask christopher walken what he did to get more Cowbell BTW. He was asking for More Cowbel also!

Good luck!

You could consult The Cowbell Project. Type in "all" in the search field for songs with great cowbell.
Pops: I'll try and get back to your email sometime Monday night. I'm having a phenomenal amount of problems with my server ( Comcast ) right now, so things are very sporadic and i'm just trying to keep up with my business transactions for right now. If any of you have a hard time contacting me, don't hear back from me, etc... it seems that appr 40% of the data enering or exiting my computer is getting lost somewhere. Sean
For more resolution I agree with the conditioner and the stand rcomendations. I would also add looking at a new DA. I owned the 563 at one time and I would say that it is a good DA but there are others out there that are better and may provide you a bit more resolution.
Thanks Ramstl, I am behind the curve a bit with my frontend.
"I'm just like you....I put on my....pants....one leg at a time.....
only after I put them....on....I make gold records".