Is it speakers or my rock/metal music? Plus help ?

Hello everyone,

So 3 months or so ago I finally decided to allow myself what I've always wanted since being a teenager browsing Stereophile magazine at the library, a true pro setup.

Here's the thing, I primarily listen to heavy metal. All over the place from the typical Disturbed, Pantera, Metallica, to black metal such as Dimmu Borgir, death metal such as Nile, power metal like Rhapsody, Stratovarious, techno metal with bass, etc.

I've got about 10 cd's I've been listening to on the systems I've been demoing, over and over. One of them is the new Lady Gaga, and man that sounds great on anything. But the other CD's are hit or miss. The main thing I hear is a REVERB to TINNY type sound, like the band is playing off in the corner, or there is a medium echo in the music. This can be heard on all systems to a high (very annoying) degree, or a low degree. The more I turned up subs the more this went away. This also can be heard on cheap systems, but somewhat easily EQ'd away. None of the dealers have any EQ setup so I haven't been able to flirt with that except for the occasional treble knob, which doesn't help much. Does anyone have any idea what I'm talking about or how to find the system that would best eliminate this? The dealers have had several hypotheses from the all too simple "crappy recording being revealed" (which I don't really believe is the case with a number of these such as new Stratovarius and Disturbed's Believe), too "high fi systems shoot for a wide sound stage" to "these are made more for classical, etc."

To help explain further I've listed a number of the systems that I've demoed below along with my notes. My apologies on not knowing the exact details of everything. The dealers up here are all VERY friendly, but also don't all exactly have great ability to switch equipment or actually even play the items that they would recommend to me.

**Second part of my question is also advice on the equipment below and any thoughts here or otherwise. My budget for the system (including surround sound, projector etc) is around 80-100k IF I'm totally blown away. Yes I know that is a lot of money. That budget is for a full audio/video system, however, what I'm really concerned about is 2 channel audio. I'm not nearly as picky about movies as I don't even know what to listen for and figure I'll be happy with anything I come up with in that regard (correct me if I'm wrong).

My room is fairly large, about 25x45x9 and naturally I haven't heard anything down there yet.

Here's what I've demoed in the shops:

Monitor Audio - Platinums, powered by a Sunfire amp (model unknown), Marantz CD player and preamp, as well as 2 JL Audio F212's, in a large room (20x35). Sounded VERY tinny. Wasn't impressed at all with the Monitors. The JL Audio subs sounded great though and put out a ton of bass.

Revel Salon 2 - powered by an older powerful Crown amp (model unknown), Marantz CD Player and preamp, as well as 2 JL Audio F212's in a large room (20x35x10). Similar setup to the above. One of the best sounding setups yet. There was only a bit of the tininess/reverb sound on this system, but enough for me to question what is going on. Plus the Revels are very pricey (18k) so I want to make sure I get it right. The bass oddly wasn't nearly as impactful with the Salon2's, no idea why, I just didn't seem blown away by it at all, and I had the subs turned up near 3/4 volume.

Paradigm - Signature S8 powered by a McIntosh two channel amp and Mc preamp (CD Player unknown) along with 1 JL Audio F212, in a smallish room (12x15x10). Now, this was probably the best sounding setup of them all. At one point listening to these I had a moment where I was moved, all of a sudden everything came together. I keep thinking this is the system, but I read bad things about the Mc and the Paradigm or not nearly in the same class as some of the speakers so I'm wondering if it was the ROOM. Only one sub and it seemed to just kick hard and the tininess/reverb was to a minimum, especially after the owner made a cable swap (seemed to actually make a difference) based on my complaints. Was it the Mcintosh amps??

I've also listened to Bryston Model 2's, Wilsons (some set around 50k), and B&W (something around 12k), with decent amps but only average subs. Was underwhelmed with all of those, the Model T's sounded the best.

The one thing I'm pretty for sure on is that the JL subs easily carried the day in most situations, so I think I'm going to spring for 2 Gotham G213 and assume that will at least totally take care of the bass part of things. I'm hoping to demo the Paradigms again and see if I get the same feeling, and also the Revels again as well as perhaps try the Legacy higher end stuff. Any other recommendations and general advice would be greatly appreciated.


Your post raises many issues that depend on many variables and unknowns, and I suggest that you spend some time researching more specific topies here on A'Gon and elsewhere. I offer ony a few general observations. Your heavy metal music preferences are probably the most difficult for a high end system to satisfy. High end happiness for the metal music fan can be achieved, for sure, but the choices are fewer. Given your budget, you should be able to put together something really nice; but don't expect the first rig to be perfect, this is a time consuming mix and match exercise. Many rock/metal recordings are simply crap and never going to sound great. Your room is not "fairly large" (as you put it), it is huge. A room that size (heck, any room size/configuation) will greatly impact the sound; you should audition gear in your room, which undoubtedly will benefit from room treatments right from the start. For the $ you are spending, home auditions shoud be doable. Trust yourself. If you liked the McIntosh front end system best (so far), who cares what the bloggers say? This hobby is full of baseless knee-jerk Mac bashing. For rock/metal, you very well might not end up with the most "high end," "best in class," blue ribbon names.
I would agree with the above poster in that you need to trust your ears. The first thing I would do is make sure your room is "right". It will need acoustic treatment from base traps on up to make sure there isn't a room issue. If you are doing subs use only a stereo pair. A single sub won't cut it. I would suggest getting the "Get Better Sound" book or DVD by Jim Smith as a starting point. By the way, some of the Mac stuff is really good such as the MC452 stereo amp with 450 watts per channel. I had old Mac solid state stuff in the past but it's nothing like this amp. The speakers will probably make the largest difference in the sound you want to achieve, so just let your ears do the work. Just my two cents
might I also add that part of your distaste might stem from the CD player that is being used. There has also been many posts concerning "pre ringing" and tininess as you've expressed and cables can also be a way of taming this (or at least some of it) but, a lot of rock/metal won't have the utmost in recording playback for you and you'll hear this with a higher resolving system. I definitely agree with Goose & Whitecap with all that they have said you 'gotta trust your ears and tuning your room once you have your system in place will pay huge dividends as well as vibration control. These last 2 takes a lot of time but, pays huge benefits.
I am an absolute cockroach with my musical tastes. To me it's about the music and my system must excel in all genres not just perfect recordings of audiophile tunes. The brand bashers often times have little to no specific experience with what they are bashing. In a way gear matching and interactions are like medications in that they may work great for one and be catastrophic for another. Trust your ears.
That's a big room. You need big robust speakers that can go loud and clear and plenty of power to run them. Especially for rock/metal genre. USe of subs can only help.

My OHM Walsh speakers do rock/metal to a tee. Does not make the recordings any better, but delivers whatever is there with aplomb.

CHeck out the OHM Walsh model 5015 at OHM Acoustics. There were a pair or two on sale actually a few days back. These are similar to my beasts that kill with metal, but also include built in powered subs to take things about as far as they can go. Probably will come in well under most of the others that have a chance. OHM sells direct and offers in home trial with only risk being return shipping costs if needed.

The 5015s are listed in the outlet store under "shop"

S-001 F 5015 photos (4) Cherry $11,000 $8,900/pr 800-8500 100-300

S-002 F 5015 photos (4) Rosewood $11,000 $8,900/pr 800-8500 100-300

Note that the photos linked to the F5015 on sale show original OHM F model drivers, not the actual 5015 "can" drivers used (see my system photo for what the F5s, which are 5015s without the built in bottom firing powered subs really look like) however. That is misleading and should be fixed really. Still a great deal on a great pair of speakers capable of delivering all the power and glory of metal with aplomb.

I'd throw the kitchen sink, a good quality 250 w/ch or better Class D amp like a Wyred4Sound, BEl Canto, or similar to set the bar at a high level few systems anywhere near the cost could match.

Just protect your hearing though. A rig like this can go very loud and clear with minimal fatigue (with metal, some at some point is probably unavoidable) and your ears might end up getting shot well before anything else.
A fair part of what you're hearing in that room will depend on where the speakers are placed (relative to the wall behind them and the side walls) as well as where you're sitting. There's probably a range of sweet spots within there (which will depend on the speakers radiation pattern to some extent) where any given speaker will sound better than it will in other locations. Until you figure that out, equipment recommendations will be difficult.

A digital room correction system like Audyssey would be another way to address the issue.

Good luck.
An important missing bit of info is your current system, and what facets of reproduction you wish to improve upon.

A hi end system will generally produce more of the ambience of the recording and will likely be more accurate in frequency balance. Perhaps you are really hearing what your music actually sounds like? You may need to tailor a system to meet your expectations.

Have you listened to your cd's with some hi quality head phones and a hi end cd player? That would at least take the sonics of the demonstartion room out of the equation.

Another observation is a true subwoofer will add weight to the low frequencies especially under 40hz. However, there really isn't that much musical information down there. You can create a lot of sonic mud that way. Smaller subs that can punch harder in the 50-100hz range might be more in line with your genre of music.
If the S8s sound better than the Salon 2s to you then don't waste your money on hifi speakers.

Go to the nearest guitarded center and audition some JBL EONs and the sub. If you like what you hear start looking for a used setup.
Interesting OP Nobleknight.

Ironically, because I struggle with chronic upgraditis, Revel Studio 2 speakers are on my bucket list, together with Focal Electra 1038 Be IIs and Magico S5s. The common denominator being BERYLLIUM tweeters. My current speakers are ...... Paradigm S8s (v3) (with beryllium tweets), plus a Paradigm Signature Servo sub.

What is particularly ironic is that I am satisfied with my speaker/sub combo. It's the unknown ... is there something better ... that's has me wondering and which drives me. I have yet to listen to the other speakers listed above. Yet ... I suspect that even if I was able to arrange a fair audition, I might walk away like you ... scratching my head asking "how can Paradigm S8s sound like they're in the same ball park as the top Revel's, least of all be in the same conversation?"

Interesting OP.

I suspect that the Paradigm S8s are the best kept secret, best bargain in audio. Performance way beyond their price point.

Let us know how you make out.
This probably isn't all that helpful, but I thought it was curious that the Revels were driven by Crown, with Marantz pre and CD. Doesn't seem like ideal system matching, but what do I know.
Start with auditioning speakers. For metal, the frequency response should be fairly level until 40HZ. Otherwise you will have to integrate a sub. If you are getting subs for the HT, not really an issue.
Given the size of your room and your budget, I'd suggest ATC actives and PMC's larger models. I also agree that room mode correction is a must.
All great suggestions-

considering your room size, check out the Thiel CS 3.7 loudspeaker. It is an outstanding Rock/Metal speaker.
With a 45' dimension, your room would be a good candidate for either some line array or omnidirectional speakers.

Also, back when I was auditioning a pair of Mirage M5si's that I still have, I tried them with a couple of different amps. A big Sunfire just didn't bring them alive, though I couldn't say it sounded "tinny," just sort of lifeless. Some big-ass McIntoshes really made them stand up and sing. I've also had good results with other various high current, low impedance amps, but the Sunfire just didn't do it.
Bgpowell ... the Op actually liked the Revels a lot and commented that they are "[o]ne of the best sounding setups yet." Perhaps your post implies that as good as the Revels sounded, they might have sounded even better if they were matched with a better front end. That could be?

The Salon 2 speakers are Class A rated by Stereophile -- if that means anything to you. That's why the Studio 2 speakers are on my bucket list. I'd fall out of my listening chair if I walked away thinking that my S8s and sub are in the same ball park as the Studios. One day I may find out.

I forgot to mention this above, but another speaker that has me wondering is the Quad 2805 or 2905. I haven't listened to ESLs for a long time. I wonder how they would sound???
Metal is not usually recorded well (though Metallica has some well recorded albumns) and the music emphasizes the bass, lower mids and very highs - precisely the areas that mass market systems from best buy, etc bring out and exaggerate. I listen to some music that has similar issues and find that I enjoy the sound on cheaper systems that audiophiles would shun. My mid if system just doesn't go there, and I think a more expensive, more audiophile system will only make it worse due to the revealing nature, transparency and evenness across the sound spectrum. So in my opinion, much of this music just isn't amenable to hi if systems. I know many will disagree but this is what I hear.
Bifwynee, I should have emphasized that I didn't think the Crown and possibly the Marantz equipment probably weren't able to display the full extent of the Revel's capabilities. I've always liked the Revels I have heard. Crown amps traditionally have the reputation of gobs of power, but lacking refinement.
Best Metal speakers in my opinion: JBL 1400 Array and JBL S4700. Either of those will bring the house down. Check 'em out and see (and hear) why. I use the S4700s, and I play Metal all the time. It does in fact sound very good. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise.
As for amps for Metal, go for Bryston and maybe Pass Labs.
Bgpowell, that's what I've read about the old Crown amps too. Ironically, back in the day, one of the best hi-end shops in the Philly area touted the Crown as the cat's meow of amps.

I used to own the DC 300, which I traded away a bunch of years ago. Since then, I bought a DC 300A for my son's mid-fi rig. I also bought a D-150A as a back-up, which I subsequently gave to my brother. These amps can take a lickin' and keep on tickin'.

One of these days, I'll borrow back my son's DC 300A and give it a listen. Would be curious to learn whether the negative press is warranted.
Its the music...metal is the spawn of SATAN!
I've tagged along for speaker demos with a couple of guys who are primarily into metal/punk/etc and they both ended up buying Wharfedales.
Phasecorrect ... or Santa Claus. Move the "n" back 2 spaces and evil is transformed into good. :)
Haha nice...OP...put on Sabbath 13...this sounds awfully good on my meager system...
I listen to a lot of rock (especially metal), but also jazz and some other acoustic stuff. I purchased full range audiophile-type speakers, knowing that they wouldn't be the absolute best choice for the rock/metal. That's the tradeoff I was willing to make. If I had another dedicated room for rock/metal, I would audition Paradigm, JBL, MBL, and Klipsch.

If you go for audiophile-type speakers, you will need dual subs. I use JL Audio subs with great results. A DSP unit (like DEQX) will also improve things considerably. I use the DEQX HDP4 with great results. Room treatments also would be essential for what you are trying to achieve- I would emphasize diffusion rather than absorption.
Wharfedales are good. I wonder how Tannoys would work as well...
Most solely rocker types love that somewhat sweet, forward, punchy sound...known as Klipsch...others find them bright, in your face, and aggressive
I do not agree that rock/metal speakers and "audiophile" speakers are necessarily two different breeds, at least from a technical perspective.

I would agree that the personal musical tastes and preferences of rock/metal lovers and the stereotypical (excuse the pun) audiophile are different and that might lead to different choices in many cases, but for someone who is an aaudiophile and wants it all (including rock metal) it is easily possible to get that out of one system if done well.

The thing is few rely on teh same flavor of anything all the time, including sound, no matter how good it might be/taste. Variety is the spice of life, and that applies especially well in the world of music and home audio.
Its an interesting question, whether any one speaker can do it all. My feeling is that a few speakers can aspire to do this, but it would be a compromise at best.

People who love rock and especially metal need a particular kind of speaker, in order to get that very visceral kind of delivery. The kind that slams you into your seat and pounds you into submission, while retaining the textures and dynamics. Yes, that's what we need.

Audiophile speakers generally display other virtues.
As far as Klipsch goes, good speakers, but they lack the quality and refinement of sound the high end JBL speakers have. Granted the JBLs are more expensive, but you get what you pay for. I would only get the Heritage series, really.
Both brands will pin you up against the wall if need be. I'm listening to Motörhead on my JBLs as of this writing, and it sounds great to me. Another good rock speaker was the B&W 801D. Unfortunately, it's out of production.

Loudspeakers do not care what you put through them and neither do the electronics.

The only thing you might want if you play a lot of metal is good dynamic range coupled with good low end. But these are things that are good for classical and jazz too.

The idea that metal is poorly recorded is nonsense. That's not the problem. FWIW, a friend on mine (who pretty much founded the metal scene in the Twin Cities) was adamant that you had to get metal on LP whenever you could, as the cymbals played better at high volumes relative to the CDs. I can create of pretty long list of metal recordings that have excellent sound. I am quite guilty of playing them at audio shows too!

IMO the real issue is whether the system becomes oppressive at high volume levels. If it does not you are home free!

To this end I use a fairly high efficiency loudspeaker, the Classic Audio Loudspeaker, and tube amplifiers. IMO/IME this combination can play metal and classical with authority and without being oppressive, in a way that I simply cannot get transistors to do on the same system.

In short, if you can't get metal to sound right you probably can't get classical or jazz to sound right either.
I agree 100% with Atmasphere on this one. There are many ways to accomplish what is needed for metal/rock and if done right it will accommodate all other genres equally well.

Being able to handle rock/metal as well as all other genres well at appropriate volumes has been a principle driver for me over the last few years. All my systems/speakers do it pretty well but my main system with the large OHM F5s is the one that does it best on the largest scale with no indication of stress or strain ever.

Scale is an important concept for home audio that seldom gets any attention. Its a lot easier and probably a lot cheaper to do good sound on a smaller scale than on a larger one. Scale alone may be the single best indicator of how hard the task of getting good sound will be and what the cost to achieve ends up being.

Not to say getting good sound on a small scale is easy, but it is much easier and there any many ways to go that might end up being the best in the end. Small scale done well will probably most always not cost as much as large scale done well.

The extreme of taking things to a small scale to make good sound cost effective is headphones. Many ways to skin the good sound cat with a pair of headphones, though they will always sound different than speakers.

Here is the best single test CD I know of for classical and metal together in one high quality recording overall.