Looking to add warmth

I'm looking for a solution to add warmth/richness or "emotion" to my rig. Currently the sound is what I would describe as dry/uninvolving, very accurate, but not pulling me in per say.

At the moment I'm using a HTPC running high bitdepth tracks via USB into a Wyred DAC2 being used as a pre to directly feed an Aragon 8008BB driving Philharmonic Audio 2's.

I would be spending money on room treatments, but my room is not very permitting. I live in a geodesic home and the living/listening room is very odd: there are few straight walls, its very open to the rest of the house, and there is a steel spiral staircase directly behind the listening position.

I've debated switching out the DAC to a PS Audio Perfectwave MkII w/bridge and foregoing USB altogether.

Or keeping the DAC2 and selling the 8008BB to switch to a warmer amp, or possibly go the tube route.

Or adding a USB converter of sorts to feed the AES/EBU input instead of the USB on the DAC2.

Tube buffer?

Adding a tube pre-amp? Or is adding another link in the chain only going to make matters worse?

Thanks in advance for any and all replies.
Hi Koenigr,
I in no way intend to offend or pick a fight but just seeking an
understanding of what you mean. You say your sound is accurate but dry
and un involving. Music is anything but what you describe, so what is
meant by accurate, and what is it accurate to (reference)? I can certainly
relate to your desire to achieve emotion and musical involvement in your
I agree with Clarles1dad on the accuracy issue. I never got that argument. I don't mean to offend either.

From what I see of your system, you should be able to make some huge improvements. The problem is what should you do? I understand your problem but there are so many different paths you can take to get better sound, you must have more focus. You may like a SET amp and horn speakers or a big Krell/Wilson system. Neither is right or wrong, but a matter of personal taste. In my opinion, you absolutely have to do some listening before you do anything. There's no way around it. The more listening you do, the easier it will be to narrow your choices down to components that you will be happy with.
Just try some 2nd Cardas or Gryphon ic and see!
Give the Naim network media servers an audition.
If you want to warm it up and get more involved with the music, you can tinker with your system, or you can change it over whole hog. Since someone has already recommended tinkering, I'll go with the whole hog approach. If you've got the green and don't mind buying used stuff of the Gon, pick up the used Ayon CD-1SC that's going for $2375 (that'll give you a very musical and involving tube cd player that's also a DAC and pre), and then go for the Music Reference RM-9 mk 2 that's going for $2300, and you'll have a very engaging and musical system. I'm willing to bet it'll be off the charts in terms of musicality.
I don't understand the confusion over Koenigr's description of the sound of his system. Components are described as being analytical on this site and in the audio magazines fairly often. Analytical, as I understand it, means accurate but uninvolving. You get all the details but not the soul.

Koenigr, I think the best way to warm up your system is by getting some warm/ musical speakers. Dali and Sonus Faber are two brands that I can recommend as being on the warm side of neutral. There are many more brands available at all price levels.

I can tell you that getting a PS Audio Dac won't get it done. A warm tube preamp might do it. I think you can get the biggest difference in sound by changing speakers, and it is pretty hard to warm up dry/uninvolving speakers with changes in other components, IMHO.
Read this.


Then read this


Get a real preamp. I don't think digital volume attenuation is there just yet, but I could easily be wrong.
FWIW, I would start by holding onto your 8008 and your W4S Dac 2. Seen lots of descriptions of these pieces and "dry and uninvolving" have never cropped up. Or at least the amp wouldn't unless it happens to be some sort of mismatch for your Philharmonic 2's (which are themselves an unknown to me). But, if it's not that, then I, too, would be looking at either the at the HTPC or the USB connection itself, as well. I agree with Tomcy6 that PS Audio DAC's will likely not solve the problem. But, be wary of "high bitdepth" tracks. Just because they are labeled such does not mean they were necessarily ripped from anything other than 44.1k (or, sometimes, even less...!) sources, or that any meaningful attention at all was paid to the ripping method quality. HD Tracks is a very popular site, but also loaded with plenty of 'stinkers' as well as good ones. You just have to be careful and your ears may end up being your only reliable guide.

For your evaluation purposes you may want to consider if you can beg, borrow or steal any good, regular CDP or transport long enough to see if that has any impact on the problem and give SPDIF a try. But, from what you describe, I don't really think this is a 'bad component' problem per se (the HTPC possibility aside). I would guess that the problem is more basic than that...like a digital formatting issue (or possibly even an EMI/RFI-influenced problem). A tube amp or pre could offer gains, but again, it doesn't seem to me like those are the original problem. Likewise a tube buffer would seem to be an exercise in trying to cover up the problem instead of trying to sniff out the cause. But, as far as that goes and if it were me, I think I'd try to temporarily swipe any decent CDP I could and see what that does to it. Even if it had no real effect, it might help you to eliminate that particular possibility. But, if that solves it, then take a hard look at either your HTPC, the USB protocol or the USB wire quality itself. Also concur with Tomcy6 that trying to tame inherently uninvolving (overly analytical) speakers through better electronics is not worthwhile - but, I myself have no way to know if your Philharmonics actually fall into that category or not.

Without seeing your room, I do know that many audiophiles manage to find some pretty good success with crazy rooms, despite no apparent degree of symmetry. Even the description of the spiral staircase doesn't necessarily set off alarms for me. A speaker being wedged up tight against a wall while the other is in free space, maybe...otherwise it might be ok. Hope this helps. Regards. John
Hello Tomcy6,
I know in the current audiophile vernacular analytical is synonymous with accurate, (personally this has never made sense to me). I just wanted to clarify that's what Koenigr2 meant (I didn't want to make a wrong assumption that's all). He'll get some good suggestions from the members on this site.
thank could be as easy as adding Shinkoh resistors to your amp or preamp. They have a very emotional sound.

Happy Listening.
"Warmth" is a curious thing, to me I equate it to richness and vibrancy in mid range tone color. My experience was that it took synergy to get it and that you don't have a prayer if its not supported by the DAC. You would think an all tube solution would do it yet I would not call the pre section of my Prima Luna warm compared to my CJ preamp. And I was never able to get a consistently warm sound with digital until I changed from asynch USB to DLNA. I think either the Perfect Wave or a Naim Media Player would guarantee good results for the digital signal to analog output section and then the thread originator would have to judge if the amplification is capable of passing good tone color from what the source feeds it
Your speakers are designed by one of the more known DIY designers, they are definitely timed and phased aligned, but looking at the components used, you definitely have a very detailed speaker that will show all flaws elsewhere. Your 8008 and your w4s are both known for being fairly accurate also. I'd try to borrow a couple of good Pre's... ss and tubed. A reputable dealer would let you put one on a credit card and refund it after audition. Cables can contribute to dryness. You need to find a good dealer or better yet some helpful audiophiles that live around you to help you try a few different items in your system. Post what part of the country that you live in. Lastly, personally, I would not get rid of any of the 3 components that I listed without experimenting with a few switchouts first... Good Luck,
Well, maybe adding a few stuffed teddy bears would work.
I'd argue against switching out your W4S DAC -- it's a fine piece and I don't think the PS Audio will do what you want. I too was using a W4S DAC-2 directly into power amp, and found that the system turned warmer, more musical, more engaging when I added a tube preamp. I have tried CJ (very nice) but have most enjoyed a Primaluna Prologue Three -- lacks remote control (though more expensive Primaluna preamps offer remote), but has tube recitfiers, and lends itself to easy rolling of the small signal tubes. (Check Upscale Audio website for many tube possibilities.) I see a couple of Prologue pres now for sale on Audiogon, and the new ones are attractively priced as well. No affiliation with Primaluna or Upscale Audio, just an audio hobbyist happy with what the Primaluna has brought to my system--might be what you're looking for, though check the input impedance of your Aragon amp, as (according to Stereophile tests) the Prologue Three prefers to see high input impedance.
You should provide pictures of your room. A discussion by audio engineers about geodesic domes.
Buy a Class A amp, the heat will warm up the inputs, the incoming signal will get a better temperature, the tones will be blown up (simple Physics) and the soundstage will be stretched, too.
If I'm in your shoes I'd find a good dealer who'll let you demo some preamps at home -- which they should if they're a good dealer. Preamps can have a dramatic affect on the sound you hear, and I doubt the volume control on the DAC is doing your system any favors in the areas your looking to improve upon. I'd start with a good tubed preamp just to see where that takes you and go from there. Didn't see what you're using for cables/interconnects, but they can also warm things up pretty significantly depending on what you choose. Best of luck.
Bigkidz, while the poster won't do,what you suggest, I agree 100 percent with your comments on the Shinkoh resistors. I have them in my preamp and love them!
Stop feeding directly your ARAGON with the DAC cause is pretty simplifier sounding and very digital. Start using a preamp. The W4S STP-SE is quite amazing for the price, way better than the integrated volume control inside the DAC. After that, you can try tube preamp...
Onhwy61, Thanks much for that informative link.
Not that simple, I've heard my share of edgy, thin and bright cartridges. All analogue front ends aren't good sounding either, they need good prep and thought same as digital.
Yes, you need a preamp as it is the heart of a system. Get a good tubed preamp and your system will be miles ahead.
Agree with the others that the direct DAC->Amp connection is probably the problem. Try to audition some tube pre-amps.
I cannot think of another thread where more useless advice has been given to a person. The OP has his system setup in a large geodesic dome. A geodesic may be the single worst type of listening space imaginable. Sounds from a loudspeaker will be both scattered by the multiple reflective surfaces and focused by the multitude of surface angles. You can whisper softly into an angle of a geodesic and be heard clearly in some angles on the opposite side of the dome and not heard at all in nearby angles. In such a space how is a preamp, tube or power cord really going to make a difference?

My advice to the OP is to not make any changes in equipment and experiment with speaker/listener positioning.

Again, a photo of your listening space would help.
I wish we were all as smart as 61? Why the attitude? Oh well. Still need a preamp and to treat your space. Both are needed. I think 61's comment on space is right and he and his statement are not useless. I would act on his statement and the pre! Both work together.
I have the Phil 3 speakers connected to a ATI-2002 SS amp and it's connected to a Rogue Athena tube pre-amp and it's connected to a W4S DAC2-se. The pre-amp made all the difference in the world. Dac to amp, was harsh and to my ears.
+1 to the Pre. I've tried DAC to amp twice and both times found input through pre amp was better.
If you don't want accuracy, but rather warm coloration: just
sub out some carbon composition resistors almost anywhere in
your signal path. NOTE: What some perceive as, "warmth", is
sometimes simply noise/distortion(btw: what applies to guitar
applies to all amps:
"NOTE: What some perceive as, "warmth", is
sometimes simply noise/distortion(btw: what applies to guitar
amps, applies to all amps"

I don't think comparing a home stereo amp to a guitar amp is relevant in the context of this thread. With a guitar amp, the tubes are over driven so that they will distort on purpose. Its just not the same thing.
The innate noise of carbon comp resistors, is still noise,
whatever the application. Especially pay attention to the
paragraph under the heading,
'Resistor applications':
(http://www.resistorguide.com/resistor-noise/) The, "tubey"
(warm/sugary glazed) sound of many older tube amps can be
by the subbing out of carbon comp resistors, with metal film
or wirewounds(which I've been doing for decades). ie: Read
the last few paragraphs of this
In the context of this thread; If the OP wants to add
warmth, carbon comps(in the signal path) are a valid option.
Altering the tonal balance doesn't create warmth.... boy how I hated all those equalizers they tried to sell audiophiles in the 80's. What creates warmth is a system that in the midrange reproduces cleanly all the harmonic overtones for an instrument in the correct volume relationship for each pitch. To me the classic symptom of a "cold" system is that whatever is loudest in mid range is clearly heard and whatever is next loudest is bleached and apologetic vs. robust and saucy.
iFi iTube!