You may investigate also whether a Denon reciever is a good enough thing. Whatever problem has the Levinson, my suspicion is that maybe not that piece is the weakest link at your system.
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I doubt the dac is your problem. I have heard it and to my ears it doesn't put me to sleep. You also have a nice transport. I love my Muse Model 9 Signature Gen III CDP.
I suggest you start upgrading to an amp and preamp and then start with better powercords. It isn't cheap but you will reap the rewards.
Thanks for the responses. I know that the Denon receiver isn't the greatest, however, I remember being drawn into the performance more and having my attention directed more towards the music when I had an ARC Dac-1 (20 bit version). I know people reading this are thinking why does he have a Denon receiver and a Levinson dac? Well, I piece mealed this system. I'm not sure if the No 35 is the weakest link, but I do remember reading about instances where people went into show rooms and left unimpressed after listening to a full Levinson setup stating that it sounded good but they weren't drawn into the performance.
Unfortunately, there are no reviews of the No 35 to be found online. It seems few people have owned this dac which makes it more difficult to ascertain the cause of my problem. I was also curious of a one box solution since it would mean less cabling to deal with and I would gain the benefit of having an integrated transport.
the emotion you are missing is not the fault of your stereo equipment. i dare say a table radio would be considered as having poorer sound quality than your stereo system, yet it is possible to get emotionally involved with music when listening to your favorite tunes on the radio.
the sign of a good stereo system is being able to fall asleep while listening.
you may expect or want more stimulation than a stereo system can provide.
Having owened many pieces of Levinson equipment, and hearing various Levinson equipment in many stereo systems of friends, and knowing Muse equipment by reputation, if there is something lacking in your system, it is probably not the Levinson. Your system could be improved in many ways.
As noted earlier, having a smooth system that one nods away while listening, can be a good thing. When a system is right, worries about the quality of your system disappear, as you relax into the zone.
You've collected some nice pieces of equipment, as your electronics improve around your DAC and transport, so will your percieved enjoyment.
I started with a Denon receiver and Rotel CD ... I had the same problem you described... I ended up with a Levinson 360S and 37, Levinson 23.5 amp and a Modwright SWL 9.0. I got a little carried away. I really like Levinson equipment. Excellent build quality - fantastic sound.
Here is my two cents ... I like the tube idea on the front end. It made the biggest difference for me in terms of creating a system that pulls me into the music. This means you might need to sell or park the Denon and probably purchase a small amp. All this is much more than a new transport. I switched the No 37 to a Oppo DVD ($199) and didnt notice a huge difference. I sent the Modwright in for a signature upgrade and used an older SS pre while I was waiting. I hate to say it but I was less than impressed. My system really suffered.
How about a tubed integrated amp? I heard a Jolida once with a set of Paradigm 20's and that is what sent me down the path of tubes ... it really blew me away. Pathos, Rogue, Manley there are a lot of good integrated amps out there. Just a thought ...
I have a full Levinson reference system. This does nothing to draw you in nor to push you away. Many folks find out in the long run equipment that has certain sounding traits that initially thrill can push you away in the long run.
My system draws the stress right out of me and many times I will fall asleep listening. I cannot do this if I'm hearing something that bothers me.
You definately have a unique set of components, and I would look to the Denon receiver LONG before I suspected the 35 DAC.
Thanks for all of the responses thus far guys. This community is really great :) I know there are many areas of my system that could be improved upon. Perhaps I should start with upgrading the transport and the receiver. I was thinking of a Theta Jade transport and a Plinius 8200 MKII, YBA YA-201, or Primare 30.1 for the integrated. I would be looking in the used market.
I'd like to go with an integrated amp rather than separates due to budget constraints and simplicity. Any other suggestions? Is my Acoustic Zen MC2 AES/EBU digital interconnect capable of getting the most out of the Levinson dac or would I need to change that as well? One thing I have been thinking about for a while...I'm currently running single ended analog interconnects. Would it be a worthwhile investment if I switch to balanced (after I get an integrated amp with balanced connections)? Also, could you suggest some interconnects that would help me get the most out of my dac?
your MC2 cable is fine. Upgrade the receiver to a nice integrated. Forget the transport for now. It's fine. Work on the amplification first. I don't know how efficient the speakers are, but if you can drive them with one of the Cayin integrated amps, this should be a nice improvement over your receiver. If these integrated amps are within your budget of course.
I'll take a wild guess and say that the Levinson is the problem and that it goes for the "refined" sound. Unfortunately, often refined is boring. People listen for different things in audio. Look at Krell some people rave about their gear others, to paraphrase one audiophile, "don't ever expect what comes out of a Krell to sound like music".
I once auditioned a very well set up Rotel and B&W system that had the characteristics you describe. At first it was wow, great detail and sound stage but after awhile I realized that here I was listening to some of my favorite music and my foot was still. That is not natural for me. There was no engagement. That was an eye (ear?) opener. Go with your musical soul, not what people tell you. If you are falling asleep there is something wrong. Try a relatively cheap experiment. Run the transport into the Denon, assuming it has digital inputs. If not pick up a Behringer SRC2496 for about $130. The DAC in that is surprizingly good. I have done A/B tests against my Monarchy Audio and it held its own. The Monarchy is no slouch either, my foot is always tapping.