This is not meant to be flippant, but how about music selection? Time for something new? Better recordings of what you have?
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Have you considered adding a vinyl front end to your system? Generally speaking, I am much less engaged by digital formats and playback methods. The simple, physical act of playing LPs as well as their (generally) superior sonics adds much to my overall engagement with the music. Your speakers are great--very emotionally involving. You may want to consider whether the upstream components are not letting them communicate as well as they are able. Maybe ask whether you really need a sub--how big is your room? A discontinuous sub can be a distraction as well. I ran one with my C-7s and liked how it filled out my very large room but ultimately I wanted more coherence so went to full range speakers. Just a few thoughts....
It sounds like you have two options:
1) Figure out what element is missing. If you can't identify what is lacking it is going to be hard to reach your goal by making changes in your current system. Might be fun but it also might be expensive and frustrating.
2) Start auditioning other systems.
Finally, and this always gets said at some point: examine room dynamics.
Therein lies the problem. Stay away from the usual audiophile recordings and get into some recordings made in the Golden Age of Stereo (including reissues). That would be the late 50’s to mid-’60s. Also, consider some of the great mono recordings that were never released in stereo. There are some real gems there. This applies to rock, classical and jazz.
Don’t get me wrong here. I also have a boatload of audiophile recordings, most of which were bought in the early ’80s. They continue sitting on the shelves taking up nothing but space. They very seldom get placed on the turntable. Most of them are soulless when it comes to musical expression, with the emphasis on sound. And even then, most have mediocre sound when you get right down to it.
I, like most audio fans, have changed components countless times over the years, generally resulting in somewhat better sound overall. That said, the move I most recently made to a tube preamp partnered with a single ended tube power amp, and adding (necessarily due to the lower wattage SE amp) efficient speakers, resulted in the largest overall improvement in sound quality I've ever enjoyed by a large margin. Simply more involving and musical for my tastes, and really providing the mojo I like...I use a couple of great sounding subs also (had these even before the tube stuff), which make my somewhat low bass reticent main speakers sound glorious.
Like say N80 : room dynamic then room treatment...
But isolation and damping of vibrations and resonance between each pieces of gear and from the room or from the desk, is very important...
Put some agate and tourmaline (cheap rock bids on ebay) on your power strip or conditioner, or amp or on top of the oppo or a big chunk under it... Try pink quartz if your system is too warm... Agate from madagascar if it is too analytical... Black tourmaline is in between...
My own system was not moving my heart without all that...Now any upgrade seems ridiculous...My heart bounce...Even with less loved of my cd or files...
Read about room treatment,damping and isolation...For the stones, all people think that I am mad and there exist nothing in literature audio very serious about that...It is my own experiment...But the results are astounding...I will never upgrade...Try some and experiment yourself...
Remember tthat almost all people give their money in upgrade because their heart is not moved by their system, the reason is almost all the times, at least very often, their system is not cleaned, their room not treated, and the gear not damped,nor isolated...Read and think it is fun to explore...
Some things come to my mind:
1) If you're "bored" listening to that kind of equipment list then something must surely be wrong with your setup somewhere.
2) When most people are using the word "soul" to describe their connection to the sound, they're usually referring to LP playback. I wouldn't go as cheap as possible to fill that role, but I'm a digital guy really, so others may be a better guide for zeroing in on a likely solution.
3) I might replace the Oppo sure enough, whether you replaced it with a better CDP or DAC or a TT. The Oppo, especially if it's unmodified, is likely to be rather veiled and un-involving.
4) I might also look into power conditioning of some kind.
5) It might help us if you could put into a single idea of what exactly you're looking for in the way of sound quality improvement that you feel might get you there. Resolution?? Tone?? Dynamics??
Making your system sound better will not necessarily increase your emotional involvement with the music you listen to. It will simply make your system sound better. On paper you have a high quality system that should be fully capable of engaging you as a listener. Is it possible that something else going on in your life prevents you from fully enjoying music?
The key to connecting to the emotional content of music, is to get your speakers working together as a unit, and pressurizing your ears as sounds do in life. Through the implementation of "The Art of Rational Speaker Placement", based on Sumiko's MASTER Set, this can and will happen. Go to myspeakersetup.com to read articles and order The Setup Guide for this procedure. I learned this technique over 14 years ago, and it was THE game changer for me and this hobby. LL the things you described that you want will be realized.
I want to hear inside the music. I want to hear the room and the reverbs. I want to hear the spit on a singers lips. I want to hear 20hz on a 32' pipe of a pipe organ. I want fast transients. Above all I don't want strident cringing top end.In that case, you should be concentrating on lowering the noise floor of your existing system. Lower it enough, and you'll get everything listed above, except strings on poor recordings. They will always have that cringe factor even with a lowered noise floor.
I had all that, I am engaged with the music , all my music now; it is of no use to buy other gear; yours is already good.... The problems is the room treatment, the mechanical vibrations and resonance, and the cleaning of the electrical grid of the house and the audio grid system also that is embedded in it...
I know that because before that with the same system I was not in boredom, I was in hate and dissatisfaction, now with the same gear I am in extasy...read about what I speak about... Your Harbeth are better than my speakers, you amp and pre are already good, then the problem is in the embedding and in the cleaning...I wish you the best...
"I want to hear inside the music. I want to hear the room and the reverbs. I want to hear the spit on a singers lips. I want to hear 20hz on a 32' pipe of a pipe organ. I want fast transients. Above all I don't want strident cringing top end."
"Oh yeah. I want depth too."
Then I agree with @hifibouncer. I would try to take placement (and possibly maybe a few other room techniques) as far as all that might go, most of it involves just a little time and experimentation...not that much cost. It will even help with the harsh hi's.
However, if you're satisfied you've done all that and you Still have problems with harshness, then it is not really time to swap out gear, but instead I think Then it's time to start thinking about power treatments. But, working out the problem as much as you can passively (and also with EQ, if you like) with room/speaker interaction First, will go a long way toward preventing you from having to overspend when it comes to power treatments.
Musical intervention? Lost your mojo? All the fancy audio trappings can't cure two left thumbs attached to the side of your head. Music finds you if it is meant to be. Remember, most of the music audiophiles recommend
is embarrassing to cultured music lovers. Bad advice,bad music.
If you want music to touch your soul....sit closer.
Perhaps you’re already a musician at some level but if not I feel that learning and playing a musical instrument connects you so much more deeply to those who create music at a high level. As a guitarist since age 13 (but not a gifted nor professional musician), I have such a deep appreciation for the art of making music when created by the handful of humans who can create that magic with their hands or voices. I can measure the vast distance between what they can deliver to our culture versus those sounds created by mere mortals like me, and it’s beautiful to the point of tears quite often.
I agree that you should go to Axpona, but with a few tracks you like and the intent of finding the know-it-when-you-hear-it speakers that captures your heart. You can usually discount most offerings in just a minute or two. Axpona is probably the best venue for speakers sampling but electronics usually require a home demo against the current electronics. This is what I did last year. Love the speakers, and now auditioning electronics to tweek them.
@acman3 : "I am not bored listening to the car radio, or my friends crappy system."
To me that is important. If there aren't songs that move you regardless of what they're being played on then the problem probably isn't with the system.
@three_easy_payments, I agree. But as someone who has never played anything (dabbled in harmonica for a while) I am awed by what even common musicians can do. It all seems mystical to me.
However, I am thinking about trying drums even though a 55 year old man learning to play drums in his basement seems like a bit of a sad cliche'. I fully expect to get a low priced kit, bang on it a few days which should be long enough to convince me that it isn't as easy as it looks and that no period of endless practice will ever be enough to make me coordinated. ;-)
Honashagen, most so called audiophile speakers (Lord knows I’ve had a lot of them) sound restrained. I could not enjoy the music! I’ve just recently discovered that to go forward I had to revisit the past. I got a pair of JBL 4429 Synthesis monitors and now the life is back...the soul is back. They sound more alive than most other speakers. Live music is crazy dynamic and delivers energy that you can feel...and it sounds uncompressed at any volume. The JBL’s do just that! Even the new L100 would blow the Harbeth away.
Reading what you’ve written I can understand why you would be missing ‘soul’ in your situation. You’ve set up your stereo for clarity, and what I find to be a negative so incredibly common in the audiophile world, “accuracy.” To me, those are almost anti musical terms and destinations. They are for those whose music serves to show off the abilities of their stereos. I find musicality, soul if you like, in the opposite direction.
Try getting a quality source by at least having ModWright turn your bright, somewhat clinical Oppo into a real quality source component and while you’re at it, Dutch the Rotel for something better too. When you’ve done those things, if you’re not so happy, the output is only as good as the source. One last thing, if you have a good collection of cds, try an actual dedicated CD player. Everything else is compromised being “universal”, master if none....full disclosure, I gave a 105 but not for CDs. Only SACD and BluRay video and BluRay Audio only discs.
It's the music that has soul and life to them. How a song on the radio reminds you of a past memory, one that you have forgotten over time. If it is not exciting some emotion from you, switch music styles, find something new to explore. Explore the top 1000 heavy metal records to own or whatever you are into. Garbage in is garbage out, your system is fine. Grab some headphone and get lost in the music with no distractions. Have fun in life, if your not having a good time in life. Seek help, anti-depressant work wonders for me.
In the late '60's I had one of those small record players like a small suitcase. I would play Lightnin Hopkins and The Yardbirds, stuff like that. It would really move me.
Now in my 70's I have a tube phono stage, tube amp, expensive cartridge ( cost me 1000's of dollars) and play the same sort of music (in fact a lot of the very same records) it still moves me.