I have been a member for a while and check the forum listings daily. My first posting. Looking for some advice on tweaking / improving my system which I started a couple of years ago
Before this I had a Denon amp, CD player and some JBL 4412 speakers inherited from my father-in-law, RIP.
My current system is
Primaluna EVO 400 and Arcam A49
Q-Acoustic Concept 500 speakers
LKS MH-DA004 DAC
Bluesound Node 2i
Pro-ject Carbon Espirt SB turntable
QED XT40 speaker cables.
Blue Jean coax and RCA
Audioquest Yukon XLR
Signal Power Cable on the amp (can't remember which one but cost about $100)
The other components are using original power cables.
GIK acoustic panels (bass traps in back corners. 7 other panels in the room)
The room is 12 X 19. 8 foot high ceilings. I sit on the long wall so I’m about 8 feet from the speakers. The speakers are an equal distance from the side walls. Today they are about 7.5 feet apart and toed in slightly. 15 inches from the wall
Mostly listen to the Bluesound either streaming through Amazon or Neil Young Archives and a hard drive or Network drive which contains my many CDs ripped to FLAC files through EAC. Very little vinyl.
My musical tastes vary
Classic jazz - MIles Davis, Art Blakey, Bill Evans but also Joshua Redman and Diana Krall
Classic and Grunge Rock - Stones, Beatles, Pink FLoyd, Led Zeppelin, Talking Heads, DIre Straits, Pearl Jam, Alixce in Chains
Acoustic music - David Grisman / Jerry Garcia Bob Dylan, Bluegrass, Neil Young.
Indie Music - Ryan Adams, Bon Iver, Lord Huron
So what is the problem? Not really sure. There are moments that are really good, but to be honest it seems never as good as a live performance. (Not sure if you can really reproduce the live experience and I have been to poor sounding live shows ) I would say it does depend on the recording. Talking Heads -Stop Making Sense Psycho KIller and David Grisman / Jerry Garcia The Thrill is gone recordings are great. Miles Davis- Kinda Blue and BIll Evans -Sunday and the VIllage Vanguard are really good. But much of the rock music and indie stuff (except maybe for Bon Iver) can be lacking.
What is the problem? Not always sure but maybe a separation of instruments, or that some instruments get lost and others are too prominent. In the Miles Davis song “So What” I love to listen to the bass, drums and piano in the background while the sax and trumpet are playing. Sometimes, even in that song, those background instruments get lost, especially the drums. Rock music is worse, Seems like no separation. Just generalizing here. I would almost rather listen to this music in my car.
Also some music can sound harsh, at times. What I want is to not be thinking about the system but just enjoy the music and feel like I’m being enveloped by the sound. To not just hear the sound but feel it.
I feel I am set with my amps. I want the Concept 500 speakers to work but also looking at the Klipsch Forte III. (I think the Cornwall IV are too big?) Or maybe something else? Also not sure if I would change the DAC or streamer. Have looked at the Furman Elite15 PC but not sure if I want to go that way. I plan on adding a dedicated 20 amp circuit. Not sure about adding higher end cables. I don’t want to re-ignite a battle. While I can’t wrap my head around some of those cable upgrades it is more from lack of experience. I wish I could compare speaker wire, connectors and power cables, just not sure how. There was a suggestion from GIK to add some additional panels to the ceiling and more bass traps high on the back wall .
Sorry for the long post, I know there are a lot of you out there with so much experience and knowledge and I will take all suggestions openly. If there is anything I have taken from reading the posts in this forum, it's that people are passionate about their music.
Okay so what you've got right now is some clear ideas of what you want, which is good. To me it looks like you've got some quite good components like the Prima Luna and turntable, some other components that are not so good, and a bunch of components that are MIA.
The worst of your not so good are the wires. Quality power cords can make a huge improvement and are worth putting real money into since unlike most other components you can keep and use them through many component upgrades pretty much forever. The gold standard - by which I mean not that its the best but rather its more of a entry level benchmark- is the Synergistic Research Master Coupler. Get one of those, use it to compare everything else against, and you will be fine on power cords.
This will do a lot to help the problem of things getting lost in the mix, a lot of which is due to loss of signal detail. Everything contributes to loss of signal detail. So its not like there's one thing you can do. Its a lot of things. They all add up.
In terms of components the one that will make the biggest impact in bringing all those sounds from buried to life and make your music sound live is new speakers from Tekton. Double Impacts are in your budget and will transform your system in exactly the ways you want. If you have the room and the budget then order Moabs like I did, you will not be disappointed.
Now for the MIA: SR HFT, ECT, PHT, Orange Fuse, Cable Elevators. Each of these will do exactly what you want, improve clarity and bring those lost in the mix sounds out in the open where they belong.
None of these will change tone or balance. When you talk about some instruments being lost or too prominent that is usually a tone or frequency imbalance of some kind. Usually speakers (and Tekton will fix that) but could just as easily be your wires or amp. Freebie rubber power cords are pure crap but at least are balanced in their crappiness across the board. Aftermarket wire on the other hand, while it can be hugely better it can also often times be the betterness comes at a cost of crapiness in certain areas. That is why I recommend SR as being the most uniformly and reliably across the board better. Not necessarily the best at everything, but almost always the best overall.
HFT, ECT and PHT will greatly improve clarity, imaging, and make your speakers disappear. HFT and ECT are all very uniform and neutral. PHT come in different flavors. I've tried them all and Green Dream is super luxurious and deeply sexy, while Black Beauty is a little more neutral and dynamic. I recommend using both together and the people who have taken that advice tell me they are very happy indeed.
SR Blue and Orange Fuse are around $150 and roughly equivalent to a $400 Master Coupler so the Fuses are a no-brainer. But really there is no right or wrong way to go about it. There's also vibration control, BDR Cones, a Shelf or sand box for your turntable. Every one of these ideas will be a step in the right direction. It all depends on how far you want to go.
There are many factors that go into convincing one a reproduction is real. If considering changes, for something completely different that does just that very easily and for modest cost take a look at Ohm Walsh speakers. Www.ohmspeaker.com. Also these tend to be more laid back and easy on the ears than many.
Yes the equipment you have is very good.Recording and mastering and engineering of alot of rock Is lacking.one or two or all three of the RME.Yes live recording ,I have been to concerts that were fantastic and other soso,some with really bad engineering, the guy on the mixing board was terrible.Were Singers voice were to low ,and the instruments drowned he out.I find it on my system to .You can try and buying better recordings but .....
Thanks for all the advice so far. I have thought about going the long way in my room. It would take some significant mods to the room and in ways not ideal for other reasons. Not to get into all the details. But it would be easy to move the speakers and at least try it out. I have heard many members in other posts comment on the Tekton Double impact speakers. Any thoughts?
I have heard many members in other posts comment on the Tekton Double impact speakers. Any thoughts?
Everything I’ve previously mentioned will address exactly the points you mentioned. Including the Double Impacts which are indeed very highly regarded. At the risk of repeating myself, problems like you noticed "separation of instruments, or that some instruments get lost and others are too prominent" is more often than not a speaker problem.
Separation of instruments can also easily be bad wire, which is why I recommend replacing those freebie rubber power cords and factory fuses. Separation of instruments can also be vibration control related, and acoustical, which is why I recommend HFT, ECT and BDR. But when you add in that some instruments get lost while others are too prominent, that more likely is speakers. If you notice a pattern to this tendency, where say trumpet almost always sounds good but piano hardly ever, anything like that, is more likely speakers.
Tweaking speaker placement always helps. But no amount of placement tweaking will address your concerns. Which is why I didn’t waste any time commenting on it earlier.
You can decide for yourself whether to take my advice or not. Typically what I have found works for me is to read through some posts of different people just to see if they really do seem to know what they’re talking about. Then check out their systems. And decide for yourself who is all talk and who can actually walk the walk.
You gotten solid advise from twoleftears. In addition to points made in his first post, I would address the weakest link in your system...Bluesound streamer. I would consider replacing that with a better streamer. Look into Lumin, Aurender and Innuos.
Once you have addressed your main source then look into Cabling. The cables from Audio Envy will provide dramatic uptick in SQ without breaking your bank.
Before you go off changing everything like wires, components you can easily have them upgraded with better parts that will take them to another level. Think Shinkoh & Audio Note resistors, AC filter choke, Nichicon and V-Caps. Why would I say this? Those parts can elevate the sound much better than all of the cables, room treatments you can buy. You components are obviously not top end but for a few dollars you can bump them up to sound better than most things on the market.
Having read your initial post, I would add one thought from my perspective. I have been to many live concerts of all genres. You will never be able to replicate the sound of rock in your room. Jazz is certainly obtainable as well as female vocalists.
I can feel Brubeck or Eva Cassidy in my room as I listen to them. But having seen and heard Duane Allman at the end of their last tour that became Live at the Fillmore, it cannot be replicated In the home. Understanding my hearing at 71 is diminished from seeing way too many concerts at outrageous volume.
My point to this is that one should not measure a system against different environments that you cannot replicate without profound amounts of cash and serious experimentation.
Enjoy what you create for the joy the music gives you as opposed to setting a bar that is very difficult to get over. Try not to get caught up in what is almost unobtainable.
Do everything you can to lower the noise floor. Low noise power supplies on the modem, Ethernet switch. Fancy power cords (it works). vibration control and isolation. All these little tweaks, they all add up.
I have Forte III's and they are very good speakers. Very good bass & dynamics with only a 20 Wpc amp. I wouldn't worry about your cables at this point. I use power cords, and some interconnects from Signal Cable and they are very good. I also use Mogami 3104 single bi wire speaker cables along with Mogami 2549 interconnects. I think the majority of your problems stem from lack of quality streaming (Amazon) as well as some of the music you prefer comes from an era where a lot of the recordings are very compressed. Instrumentation will sound cluttered in the poorest of these recordings. And since you are now stepping into better equipment your new system will reveal poor recordings even more than before, Conversely, high quality recordings will sound beautiful. If you decide to move to a more sensitive speaker like the Forte III's your system will become even more sensitive to recording quality. There is a reason why I don't stream. It is largely because most services can't even compare to a standard Redbook quality CD as far as resolution and sound quality. I believe you need to get your source quality in check before you start looking for a possible weak link in your equipment. I wish you the best of luck in this amazing but sometimes frustrating hobby of ours.
Current system: Klipsch Forte III, First Watt F7 power amp, LTA MicroZotl preamp, Border Patrol SEi DAC, Mcintosh MCT450 transport, Torus TOT Max power conditioner, power cords by Signal Cable, Digital interconnect & silver reference interconnects by Signal Cable, Mogami 2549 interconnects, Mogami 3104 Single Bi wire speaker cables by Take Five Audio.
Hi Stalajkowski, Separately from the other suggestions, (and barely disguised advertisements), you mentioned that at times or mostly, you listen to flac files on a network drive. Is this via a NAS or PC over Ethernet or wireless? There is nothing wrong with the Node2i despite there being better. What streaming service do you use? Similarly, the turntable isn’t the best but shouldn’t stop the music from popping. A subwoofer is a good suggestion from 3_e_p. See if you can borrow or trial one first. There is plenty of info on subwoofers placement on this forum. Don't spend the money until you can isolate the issue otherwise you could be sorry. Your room and furnishings are different from the other posters. And your hearing and musical appreciation also different. This post is the start of your research! 🇦🇺
My source is a DAC/streamer too, so what I have to say in response to your post is a result of many of the same issues and experiences.
- some of the musical genres you like are plagued by poor recordings, go for high rez files when possible - your source is the weak link compared to the rest of your gear, I bought a PS Audio Directstream DAC/streamer that is pretty analog-ish sounding, just a suggestion as there are LOTS of good ones out there - power cables make a difference - speaker placement tweaks are free
Try not to spend too much money, unless you have money and the journey is fun for you, and never forget to enjoy the music first and your rig second.
Your walking down the street and all of a sudden you hear in a house nearby music . Inmediately you know something just by hearing the music from a distance . You know that the music playing is not recorded , you know instantly that someone is playing a musical instrument be it a piano , guitar , sax or drums .
What is it that live music has that we can instantly recognize it as live music . There are many reasons that this is so . One of them is dynamic shifts . Tonality is another one but they alone can't explain why our brain can recognize live from recorded .
I am not sure why but I am sure someone with.more knowledge can explain this phenomena with more credibility . If I can't explain it why bring it up ? Because there is a speaker system that consistently has been able to fool me into believing I am hearing live instruments instead of a recording .
Of course there are so.many viariables in recording techniques that it depends on the recording but even then I could be hearing a so and so recording and all of a sudden a particular instrument stands out above the others that makes me say " that sounds right "
The speaker in question are Magnepan . In my life I have never heard a speaker fool.me so many times into believing I am hearing the real thing then Maggies .And they don't have to be the expensive model . Sometimes I hear a sound believing it to come from the system but when I pay more atention the sound is really coming from the street . They are uncanny in this regard .
I've had many speaker in my life and always enjoy music threw them . Thats why I bought them to begin with . From Proac , Spicas , Martin Logans and others . Some do this or that to a very high degree giving me musical pleasure . But of all of them the speakers that have fooled me into believing I am hearing a live performance more consistently are Magnepans .
Look I am a similar journey and I have come to the conclusion that it is purely the source material. I am using TIDAL exclusively for my source ( My Linn is another country) I was seduced into believing MQA is as good or better than high end vinyl. Its not CD's are no better - Distortion as a result of DRC is prevalent , so are high rez downloads . Its everywhere. For example a Nat King Cole TIDAL stream , recorded from the 50's is audio nirvana . Perfection .60 years ago FFS.These gems are out there , but you have to find them. Another example Aretha Franklin - Her voice has been captured perfectly on most recordings -Then the backing group comes in - MEGA DISTORTION There has been zero progress in the recording industry , in fact its gone backwards. The complexity to achieve what is deemed high end is very very expensive AND STILL DEPENDENT ON SOURCE MATERIAL DON'T BUY new equipment , just be judicious choosing source material. None of these high profile reviewers -except for the exception of SG ever addresses DRC . They know where their bread is buttered .
Personal opinion is you should be able to fix your problems with two things. See if the speakers can be set up on the short wall. Use the Vandersteen method for figuring out where they should be. It is on their website. Also a couple subwoofers(or more) would help. I would send everything from 80-100 Hz through the sub woofers. This takes load off your main amp and less distortion in mid range as you take away most of the speaker cone movement. This will do a lot to open up your sound stage. You don't have to buy big expensive subwoofers to achieve solid bass down to 30 Hz. I talked to Duke at Audiokinesis and he has an amp and 2 subwoofers for $1600. They are 10" subs.
I say this because I personally wouldn't like taking a loss on speakers that cost $5500 and are advertised as having a wonderful sound stage. You already have some sound treatment. That is great. That helps fix any dips and peaks but you could still have those if your speakers aren't placed correctly. PS I have Bluesound Node 2i and imaging, soundstage and detail are not a problem. however, I say that without trying a better streamer. Nothing in my system is very expensive but once I found the Vandersteen formula, I was done moving speakers around like I did the previous 8 months.
I could be way off here but you kind of sound like what I went through years ago. What I came to realize is that I just don't like some kinds of music. I used to think that a better system would be so good that I'd enjoy anything on it. Not true for me. Going tubes didn't help, R2R didn't help, high end streamer, cables...nope.
While I love lots of different kinds of music, my brain/ears just don't like a lot of the music that I'd call "congested", where too many instruments and singers are active at a given time. Not to say I'm strictly a pipe and slippers kind of listener...far from it.
You may want to try this. First buy/use a really good vinyl pressing of an album that you're not really enjoying while streaming and play it on your tt. Does it sound night and day better? If not, don't bother upgrading your digital sources. Do you have a friend or family member that has a much better system than you, or local hifi shop? Listen to this same music and see if it's much better.
You may find out it's not your system. Good luck!!
Thank you all for taking the time to share your experience and knowledge. I know everyone has a different take on this and I appreciate hearing different viewpoints. It’s good to hear other people are going through the same journey.
Just a few things. The room is carpeted. I will try to move the speakers to the short wall. There are some features of the room. No electrical outlet on the only wall that works. A large walk in closet door, windows and built in shelves on the long walls that would not allow me to move my GIK panels to the mid- point reflection on those side walls and the door would now be in in the back corner so no bass trap there but I can speak to MIke at GIK (who has been great) to see if I can work those issues out.
I have a Klipsch R-105 subwoofer for my movie set up and tried that, didn’t feel it added anything and then tried 2 subwoofers (albeit a cheaper one) and liked it even less. The AudioKineis subwoofer swarm system does seem intriguing.
I have thought about changing the Bluesound streamer but so many people review it favorably and it sounds like I should work out the other things first. But I can see an upgrade, in the future, so thanks for the suggestions. The Bluesound is wired into the Network drive but I also have a SS hard drive directly connected to the Bluesound. While I agree a weak link could be the service, in this case Amazon, I also subscribe to the Neil Young Archive service that uses high resolution audio. At times there seems to be a difference but other times not really.
There is something very unique about live music, that can only be experienced at that moment. It's the venue, the performer, people at the soundboard, what you might be drinking or smoking, your seat, who is in front of you, the weather and what happened that day. Hard to reproduce some of those things at home. Can’t wait until live music is back.
Thanks again for the advice. I’ll keep you posted when i find something that works.
For live performance sound, another vote for Magnepan. Few other speakers can do imaging as well as Magnepans. For about 10K (maybe less), you can pick up used 20.7s. Now realize that Magnepans are 4 ohm speakers with low sensitivities, usually around 86 dB, so some power is necessary. And they also sound best with a subwoofer.
Not as technically versed as most of these responders. I have found that cables can make a significant difference. The advice I received was to start with the preamp to amp, source to pre, and try to use the same cable brand / quality for each. Some audio stores will let you try different cables on trial to swap out - worth the effort. My two cents.
My first question is are you using the EVO 400 as a preamp and the Arcam A49 as the power amp? Your Q Acoustics Concept 500 are an excellent value when regarding price/performance ratio. From what I have read and heard over Youtube the Concept 500 is relaxed/polite with a slightly recessed midrange and toned down tweeter, not the best choice for rock recordings. The first thing you need to do is figure out your weakest link. IMO your sources and cables need to be upgraded. Your strongest components IMO are your Concept 500's and PL EVO 400. Do you want to invest in streaming/dac or upgrade your phono set up? If you feel your system is to soft add some aggressive cables like Nordost ect, Remember everything matters having a balanced system with no obvious weak link should be your goal. Let me know what you think and I can give more specific advice.
I am not using the PL and Arcam together, DId not know I could, Is that an option? Just letting folks know that I have both amps. And like both amps for different reasons. I don't really want to upgrade the phono. Just don't listen to vinyl enough. but yes to the streamer. I don't believe I saw any comments on the LKS MH-DA004 DAC, not sure how that compares to others, though I have seen many different suggestions for DACs in past posts. The cable suggestion sounds interesting, I will check them out. Right now I am looking at changing the layout of my equipment in the room (placing speakers on the short wall) and see what tweaks to the acoustical panels would help. I feel if I can get that down then I will be in a better place to assess the sound once the room is in order and then change pieces accordingly. Thanks again for your help
I dont know if the Arcam or Evo 400 can be used as a pre or power amp only check your owners manual. Was not sure if the Evo 400 was a pre or integrated amp. Yes your option of different speaker placement is a free tweek that could improve SQ. Try to pull Concept 500 30 inches out from wall and 2 ft. from sidewall if possible. If your looking to improve or create a more energenic "live" sound and improve rock recordings try Nordost or silver infused cables that should improve speed and clarity. I know cables are expensive but look at them as a component not just an add on. Do your research and enjoy the journey!
Lived it...many times. Haste will cost you dearly. You have good stuff so let’s work with it from the wall out:). First rule, amp goes into wall directly. Most power conditioners effect the sound negatively. Trial and error there. Signal Cable has some value but not on the amp. Try a no risk Anticables PC. Next, if there is any pure silver connections, remove and replace. Try Anticables L3 Speaker cables...they will scare you into believing you are in the club! Better power cords for amplification and Digital a must...Furman ugh:(. Transparent Reference Cord on digital source is beyond words..glorious! Transparent Plus level IC’s are an amazing value and will get rid of the grunge. That’s enough for now. Oh, BTW...speakers on long wall is better with seating against opposing wall. Eliminates standing waves quite well👌🏻
The couple of folks who tell you to ignore the first responder who recommended power cables, getting the cables off the floor, etc are wrong and appear to be mid-fi hobbyists if they haven’t experimented with power cables and elevating cables and doing a close listen on what they hear.
Power cables make a significant difference in lowering noise floor which results in better separation of instruments, a more robust fuller sound, and extended low end as a few examples of improvements that can be heard.
I and my circle of audiophile friends have tried many commercial and DIY power cables. The difference are quite noticeable even on entry level high-end components but the better the audio system the more obvious the sound improvements. It defies explanation but is quite audible if you are a care full listening audiophile.
Raising the cables (all cables including speaker and interconnect and power) off the floor is much more subtle effect and what’s audible is a clear up phasiness of the sound making instruments and voices sound more whole.
You don’t need expensive Cable elevators. I tie fishing line from my ceiling (because I am in a basement, best place for a high end system is a concrete floor, if you are able). you could use wood blocks, etc every foot or so to get the cables a couple of inches off the floor. I have a mid level high-end system and raising all my cables off the floor made a subtle but tangible audible difference in coherence of the music instruments and vocals.
Other tweak thoughts that improve sound 1) Speakers and electronics on tiptoes 2) hanging soft material on walls to cut down on reflections, particularly behind you speakers. 3) Speakers moved away from the back walls and about 9 feet apart and then move them closer or further in separation until you hear more of a wall of sound rather than the individual speakers 4) Use Deoxit on your connectors
I have a dedicated 2 channel hi-fi room with the speakers on the long wall as you do. L= 12'3" x W= 11'7" Main ceiling is nearly 11' with a recessed tray ceiling going an additional foot up. The front of each speaker is 30.5" from the back wall & they are about 56" apart (inside edge of each), 3' from the side walls. I have a 12" subwoofer in the right front corner of the room. Mono Block amps and a fine preamp as well. To say that they image well would be a colossal understatement. That is true for vinyl and digital audio...which for me is limited to either my custom made silent high definition audio PC with a phenomenal sound card or streaming from my android. Try experimenting with bringing the speakers closer together and probably closer to the back wall.... in small increments and abort the toe-in as you do. You should achieve near perfection when you are in the center of the triangle formed by the loudspeakers. You will probably have to move your listening position closer than it is now. If you still feel that you can't achieve the results that you desire...upgrading may be your path. I have never regretted spending $ on good electronics mated to the proper speakers. Connectors are best treated with Stabilant 22A formerly known as Tweak (from DW Electrochemicals). Best of luck
Millercarbon's got the right idea, but just start by going as goofy as you can afford on a really good, well reviewed AC cable for your power amp. No DIY. I'll bet you're thinking of spending a pile on this, and you might, so what's a couple hundred on a wire? It will make a difference, and you will learn a big lesson about the importance of one silly wire. You can experience one entire episode of wonderful, low-noise that some think is placebo effect. It generally is even more pronounced if you buy wires on the used market. They're cheaper, broken-in'er, and many times easier to research.