Need help - system performance

First I'll explain my system. Have a pair of Martin Logan SL3's (10" woofer with approx 4' esl panel), a pair of Parasound HCA1000A amps at 125 wpc each, a Parasound pld1100 line drive stereo preamp, a Pioneer Elite DV-05 dvd player,IXOS silver series interconnects (1/2 to 1 meter)and 12 gauge fine stranded monster cable MC-1 which has just an outer thick plastic jacket (16' speaker cables).

I have the amps horizontally bi-amped ( 1 amp for lows & 1 amp for highs). The speakers were bought used, are two years old, in mint condition, and were cared for. the amps & preamp were bought new and now have about 15-20 hours on them as well as all cables. DVD/CD player is connected to the direct input on preamp. polarity is correct on all terminations.

This is my sonic situation, when playing my favorite cd's, (you know the ones which have those exceptional quality recordings)the system sounds overall very good and bright. When watching dvd movies, it also sounds very good. When listening to most cd's however it appears to be lacking a little something!!!

It seams if the music be played consists of single or separable instruments, i.e. single guitars, horns or voices, the esl panels sound wonderful, but when its compounded such as rock and roll or the complete frequency spectrum, it seams to lack midrange, clarity, and sound stage. the 10" low end drivers seam to deliver a punchy bottom at times and muddy at others. The lower the volume the worse the condition. As far as listening to music from the tuner, well it sounds like absolute s....t. I have experimented with speaker placement with basically no differences. I have NOT tried to vertical biamp or drive the the amps as monoblocks.

I had a limited budget and spent approx 4K so far. I thought I did all the right research and made the right choices considering my budget. So what happening??

I tend to think the inexpensive speaker cables (bought from circuit city) could be causing the problem but I cant bring myself to spend a $1000.00 to proove it without talking to someone who knows more about it first.

Need intelligent help and recommendations....Steve Rounds
Steve you have this figured out alright - that Monster Cable is really hurting you badly. For a run that long you'd be better off with a networked type speaker cable - try some MIT (or Transparent if you really want to spend some $). Get some MIT cable on loan fron Cable Company ( try some different models, but don't short yourself by trying to stay cheap, as that will cost you soundwise as you already know.
Steve, you have good gear, but have a few changes to make. Get some Transparent speaker cables (used). Run the amps in monoblock mode, you'll be glad you did. Then allow the amps to break in, 20 hours is not enough time for new amps to settle in and begin to sing. Spend a bunch of hours with the set up, Martins are finicky but VERY worth the effort and time. Your stuff is too good to disappoint, you have no reason to feel buyer's remorse. Any specific questions, feel free to drop me an email. Jeff
First are the MLs spiked? They will never deliver the bass performance they're capable of without spikes. If you run the amps as monoblocks (a good idea), use long interconnect and short speaker cables. You do not have to spend big bucks, but don't short change your system. I'd suggest Discovery, Cardas or van den Hul products. You have the basis for superior sound.
I feel alot better already knowing there's hope without changing primary equipment. I have some questions regarding your comments.

It seams your all in agreement that my inferior speaker cables need replacing. I know theres alot of controversy regarding this issue, so I guess i'll be discovering who was right in the near future.

I wish that I could use short speaker cables but home architecture won't permit it. Believe it or not, I underwent a major construction project just to develop a spot in my living room for my system.

The Martin Logan owners manual mentions spikes, but doesn't mention the concept behind it or the sonic benefits? Please explain.

About four months ago when I was picking brains to put this system together, I started a thread inquiring about the whole biamping theory and best results. It was clear that most agreed on horizontal biamping delivering the best results. I was told that monoblocked amps produced a grainy sound. I am certainly willing to try it, but what are your feelings regarding that grainy comment?
I'm going to disagree on the monoblock idea. I think bi-amping improves MLs a lot. Speaker cables--definitely change them. I'm not big on the networked versions. You have matching amps, so vertically bi-amping with very short runs of quality speaker cable would improve things. Spikes--absolutely--get them from ML directly.

Another tip: you can build a resistor for the power into the MLs. I have done this with a simple 125 volt radioshack 2k pot. I reduce the voltage to the ESL panels, they run higher than they should on my monoliths. I have not done this with SL3s, but it could tame some of the harshness.

Lastly, don't expect the SL3's to do BIG recordings (full orchestra--etc) as well as they do vocals, small jazz groups, and chamber music. They really excell in these areas and because of this you will notice they sound muddy in comparison when playing larger scale music.
Sfrounds, According to recent Stereophile article they use MIT and Transparent for the reference system at the ML plant. I use all Transparent cables in my sytem that includes ML Aerius i. While searching for a dvd player that would also double as a cd player I tried the dv-o5. It had a lot to do with the sound that you just described. Going to Sony 9000es helped a lot, and adding external D/A converter for cd playback did even more. Hope this does not confuse matters even more, but thought I would add my experience. Good luck, BTW I also compared with Pioneer 525 ( I think ) and Sony S777. The cd player that I was looking to replace was a Cal.Audio Ikon MkII. It handilly beat down all but the 9000.
Dear Steve, I would reccomend a used pair of M.I.T. 750 shotguns (around $500). Sorry to say this but your amps while very good are not capeable of the resolution your speakers can deliver, and the current they need. Try a large mosfet based stereo amp even if you have to buy it used or trade the Parasounds in. If your source is O.K. they should sing but dont expect big dynamics from electrostats they have phisical limitations. respectfully Nick
I agree with Abstract. Keeping the signal ( and the reactance ) from the ESL panel seperate from the signal ( and reactance ) from the woofers is probably MUCH better than trying to force one amplifier channel to deal with both. As such, i sincerely doubt that those amps would like to see a load of that nature when bridged ( monoblock ).

Not being overtly familiar with Logan's, i would look into what other owners of such speakers suggest. After all, who knows better than someone that HAS "been there, done that" ??? Play with speaker placement as much as is humanly possible and then spike them in place.

As to speaker cables, be careful with what you use. At that length, various designs begin to work and look ( electrically ) MUCH better than others. Cables with very high capacitance ( Goertz, etc...) or high inductance ( like the Monster that you're using ) WILL become very noticeable "tone controls" and could even cause amplifier instability if not dealt with properly. This is besides the fact that they could become "long wire antennas" for nearby transmitters and stray RF in the area. Something that makes use of a network or at least uses some type of braiding / twisted pairs / small multiple conductors in a litz configuration, etc... would also be worth checking into.

Since you're using E-stat's, try reading the "articles" section in Pass Lab's website. Look for an article entitled "speaker cables: Science or Snake Oil". Nelson did some testing of various speaker cables a LONG time ago ( 1980 ) using his old Dayton Wright e-stat's as a reference. I think that you'll find it pretty educational to say the least. As he states, each system is different and heavy gauge is NOT always best. Below is a direct link to the specific article for your convenience. Hope this helps... Sean
My 2 cents, from what I can tell we are not reading his post very well, the logans sound great with dvd movie play back and high qulaity recorded cd, which I believe he is talking about hdcd/dvd-a etc but blah on regular cd's. The biggest thing that comes to my mind would be the cd/dvd player he is using in not upto snuff for reg cd play back. My advice to you, since you are on a budget and before forking out big bucks on new speaker cables, would be to borrow a friends standard cd player of good quality and plug it into your system and see what it sound like then. If you don't have a friend visit a locate hifi shop and maybe you can borrow a qulaity cd player for a in-home test drive. If you cont. to have blah sound then I would say then try different cables, and again you maybe able to find a local hi-fi shop that will let you do a in-home review. At the worst you maybe out a few dollars in restock fee's if any, but at least you will know where your money is better spent. Of course once you find out where your system needs help the most, come back to audiogon and buy used especially for speaker cables. Once last thing definitely use the speaker spikes on your logans. I would also recommend using speaker spikes regardless of anything else, you will notice a greater improvement in the lower bass region. Also another little trick with the logans when using the speaker spikes is try to set the rear spike higher than the front two to give a little forward tilt. Try it you may notice a improvement like I did. Good Luck...Dave
How old are your cl3's. The panels need changing about every four years, and they don't like damp surroundings.
Well, after reading your comments over and over, this is the approach I think I should take. Please feel free to correct me if you disagree! Also, I have a few more questions.

First, i'm going to relocate my two amps next to each of the ML's.

second, I have contacted to select for me two 3 or 4 foot pairs of speaker cables best suited for my present equipment. In doing this however, I'll have to vertical biamp instead of horizontal biamp. good idea or not? If I were still to use the horizontal biamp method, I would end up with 1 pair of 3' speaker cables and 1 pair of 10' cables. whats your opinion on this?

third, use long interconnects from preamp to amps using y connectors.

fourth, order spikes from Martin Logan which I have already called today and are in full agreement that they are a necessity.

fifth, keep my equipment for now, and see what results these new changes make to the sonic performance of my system first.

I know that Parasound equipment is not up there with the high end big boys, but for the budget I had and the research I did, it seamed like the right choice. I'm not yet convinced this equipment won't provide the performance i'm hoping for at least for now. These amps are supposed to be high current amps, designed by John Curl, and deliver 125 wpc/45 amp peak current each. They are also supposed to have hand picked/matched whatevers. Over time I'll most likely listen more, learn more, and spend more.

Thanks again for your help and support......Steve

I'd like to hear (second hand) how it sounds once you've made the changes. I agree with everything you are doing and think you will be pleasantly surprised at the improvements. Someday you probably will replace the parasounds, but the changes you are making now will delay that expenditure. The parasounds have the power you need, but not the finesse to get the most out of the ESLs. I don't think you have to spend mega bucks here, there are some really outstanding amps coming of age at real world prices. While I have not heard the Odyssey Stratos I have heard and read excellent things about it--particularly with ESLs. It may be worth auditioning some day. Do post your results on the current changes.