I recently got pretty tired of dealing with harsh and strident highs with my system. In my case, it was pretty easy to narrow the cause down to room resonances in my new house, since I had recently moved and had not made any equipment changes. Before you spend a lot of money on equipment, you might want to rule out the room as a cause of the harsh sound. If you have something that will absorb or diffuse sound to put in the corners it should give you a clue if this is what is going on. In my room I put about $110 into some Auralex studiofoam and used it to deaden the corners and it made a world of difference. Lots of dealers that sell musical instruments carry this stuff for people who are setting up recording studios.
If you have a really good audio dealer near by, talk to him about your problem. He may let you borrow a demo amp to try for a few days. If you try another amp and still have problems, I'd keep working on the room.
Sell the Adcom amp, and buy an S-H2O Signature for $2800. If you want to know why, read the review at 6Moons. Replace your Radio Shack interconnects with used anything at Audiogon.
150wpc should be enough power, and changing the power amp is one of the last things I'd do - negligable if any return on $ spent. Adcom's are OK, and adding power would only exacerbate the situation.
Brownsfan has a good handle on a good way to tame room / system interaction. If you look at the pictures of my system you can see that wall treatments are used heavily to tame the sound - I can go MUCH louder on my system than before before it glares at me from room interaction. Spending $200-$400 here will make a ton of difference.
Another place to look is your front end - what's your CDP and DAC? Harshness and grain are typical digital factors. You may not notice it as much at lower volumes.
Don't get carried away on cables yet either. sure I'd do somethuing a bit better in interconnects, but again, value for $ spent will be room treatments and digital source components. I usually vote for Transparent cables, as I think they affect the sound the least - ever notice they're never mentioned in cables to make the sound change threads? But even so, cables are a small change compared to the stuff above.
Don't think about changing amps until you have the things above considered.
I second the post from brownsfan. The room is very important-taming resonances, toning down harsh reflections, taming bass modes, etc. I had an ADCOM amp and sold it. I thought it was too brilliant on the high end, and that was a "soft" room. I really don't think its a power issue, but more of an amp issue. I bought Outlaw M200s for each channel and they really "disappear". I don't perceive any harshness or ear fatigue. I think there are many amps in your price range that you would be happy with, but, again, you may want to work on your room first. Good luck!
Not so sure it is the room. This system has been in three rooms and had the same problem.
Muralman1, is that to say that Adcom is not good stuff? I have a Rotel 200 by 5 available to me at a good price. Is that a better choice than the Adcom 300 by 5? I will look at that review for the Signature.
Adcom is decent stuff - I doubt whether you'd hear any significant difference with a Rotel. Amps are not where your problem is. What's your front end?
Yes, Adcom is good suff - just good. Like Tgrisham says, it is exacerbating the brightness in his system. The H2O is in a class of it's own. My last solid state were Pass Labs X600 monos. It was no match for the H2O. The Adcom isn't on the same page of either amp. A single H2O S-250, at $2K is all that's needed power wise for any speaker.
The Radio Shack interconnects are big culprits as well. For ultimate clarity in speaker cables, try Speltz's Anti-Cable. It's as cheap as Radio Shack, and better than - well, read the testimonials.
Snofun3.....by front end I suspect you are asking about the source? I have a 250.00 Denon cd player and usually listen to music through Comcast cable's digital music stations. I hear no difference between them. Having said that, you are probably thinking I have a tin ear. Probably right about that. Now consider how harsh my system must be if I can hear it! I am going to see if my local high end store will let me audition interconnects and a bigger amp. If that does not do it I will move on to fixing the room. I want to thank each of you for your help.
source is a real contributor to your problems. I used to have a $400 denon cdp and it practically killed me. Try a used rega planet. It's worth it. Cables and amps matter as well, but garbage-in, garbage-out!
1) The room
2) The source
3) The interconnects
I would address all three. You don't need to better amplify what is already compromised source material.
If the system has sounded harsh in three different rooms, I'd still begin by treating the room. With $2500 to spend, you can do a lot with the room, the source, cables, etc. Once you've done these three things, please follow-up here. I predict you will be stunned by the improvements. And I would not start with the amp, FWIW.
Your amp should have more than enough power. You should really try to borrow gear and swap only 1 piece at a time until you find the culpret. If everything is sounding harsh when played loudly, you can eliminate the cd & cable (compressed music usually sounds flat, not bright).
Borrow a stereo only amp if you need to just to run the right and left channels to compare to the adcom.
Personally, it doesn't seem to me like your system is balanced. You have shorted yourself with not enough spent on the sources, nor on the cabling. What speaker cables are you using, do you have a line conditioner?
Having owned the B&W CDM9NT they can be a little bright (Not harsh) unto them selves.
I purchased the 9NT to set up with an Adcom GFP 565 and GFP 555. Due to problems with the Adcom gear as it had been sitting in storage for a year and a half, I changed to a B&K Pre and a B&K ST2140. 140 watts was pleanty of power for my needs. I had my Adcom gear for 12 years in that time it gave me excelent service.
That said system synergy is of utmost importance.
1) I would seriously consider upgrading your CDP. Garbage in garbage out. Your reference to harshness is also a little vague but I am guessing that it is the highs not the mids or bass. This is more than likely digital glare caused by a lesser quality CDP.
2) Although I think a cable upgrade would help your system overall, I don't beleive that it will cure your problem of harshness. With the 9NT I have had good luck with copper cables. Silver can be a little brighter in the highs due to its better high frequency response I recomend staying away from silver with B&W speakers.
3) The room is also a component even though you have had the system in three rooms have you ever used room treatments. Again I will mention system synergy.
In closing demo differend CDP's in you system first. It can't hurt and you may find that is the answer to your problems.
I don't think power is your problem. Your speakers are rated at 89db with 1 watt which is about average. 150 watts should be plenty unless you are really cranking it up. It's more likely that you are amplifing crap up stream, so look there first.
I wouldn't give up quite yet on your Adcom combo. Adcom is usually near the top of the mid-fi range of gear. I am sure there are numberous reviews that should confirm/deny the quality of your gear.
Your DVD player and interconnects would be a better place to start than swapping amps. 100-200 bucks/pr for good interconnects might help a lot. Stay away from silver and go with a well reviewed smooth sounding copper interconnect. A decent digital cable may help as well. A new DVD player would be the next move. Look for something that is well reviewed for sound quality which is sometimes only brushed upon.
One thing you could be hearing is the compression inhearent on DVD recordings. The quality of DVD sound will become worse (compressed, muddy, flat, etched) as the complexity of material and channels in use increase. As you improve your system, the problems are magnified.(This is the death spiral of hi-fi) Use both multi-channel and simple 2-channel material for testing. Complex multi-channel material can hide problems and confuse your mind about what really is going on. Use material that you are really familiar with.
I found this quote on the net from another B&W NT9 speaker owner;
"I had to sell these speakers due their brash, hard and uncomfortable sound. i tried changing other components to see i could take some of it away, going to the length of buying o 300 watt krell, but they fundamentally stayed the same. there was alot i liked about them - presence, detail, soudstage focus to name a few, but they were not easy on the ear, especially at higher volumes.
i used a CDM-7Nt for a while, which was a much more balanced sound."
You might be fighting an up hill battle with these speakers. Armed with this bit of info, you might try swapping your rears to the front and see if you draw the same conclusion as above. Do an A/B test with music and movie content with front 2 or 3 speakers only. If they have the same mid-tweet combo there may be no difference save for the bottom end. If this does the trick, another pair of 7nt's might be the solution.
A few more easy tips:
Leave your amp on 24/7. Most amps sound better (more open) if they are on for more than an hour.
Speaker "break-in" may be an issue if they are new. Make sure you have lots of hours on them.
Plug your amp directly in the wall. Eliminate cheap power strips!!! Get a decent power conditioner for your DVD and pre-processer. These components need clean filtered power for SMOOTHNESS. Amps need current for dynamic power. You can always use a power conditioner even if you upgade components later.
Try this test. Plug-in only what you need to make the system work (eliminate power strips) and see if that makes any difference.
Me too...sort of. My suggestion is the same as many here have offered. Check the cables you are using. B&W speakers- regardless of what you think of them, are really revealing of the contributions components bring to a system. I Love this about them, even if it has meant a little more experimentation. I am not familar with the 9nts models, but I have 1nts. My own experience has been that they can sound harsh when under- powered or when at the receiving end of a bright source or interconnects or cables. They sound bright where brightness is evident! In my system they do not sound the least bit bright or edgy, and they have given a much better account of recordings than I got from the their 600 series sibling... and this from a system I would consider less capable than yours.Really, I wonder if just changing out the Denon source for anything else for any amount of time wouldnt serve to show you the difference a little change could make?
It's really hard to get so much advice, isn't it? Maybe more than you bargained for! The difficult thing about audio is that all the individual pieces have to work together. If you are like me you put together a system one piece at a time, when you could afford it. Some of the best advice I ever got was this: the speakers are the most important device because they produce the sound waves that travel to your ears and they translate all the electrical signals (good and bad) into sound. The next most important piece is the source component,in this case the CD player because this is the beginning of all the electrical signals. GIGO. All of the other pieces are of diminishing importance compared to these two. That is where you want to spend your money. In my view, the following pieces fall in order of importance: speakers, source, pre-amp, amp, interconnects, speaker cables. Each one is dependent upon the other. My Classe CDP is not the most expensive, accurate, revealing or detailed, but it allows me to forget that I am listening to a disc and it sounds so beautiful. My Dynaudios allow me to forget that there are speakers there and I can listen to them for hours. After all, its only about being able to listen to music and forget about all the equipment in front of you. Turn the lights off. Do you like what you hear?
Wow, If I could get my local dealer to give me the level of attention I have gotten here I would have whipped this problem by now. Thank you one and all for the good advise. I called two local (Wash DC) high end stores to see about a home demo for amps, CDP, and cables. Both stores said they would sell me anything in the store with a 30 day store credit policy on returns. I asked if I could buy a floor demo or open box item and return for a full cash refund in a day or two and they both said no. So much for "try before you buy". There is a "used" high end dealer about an hour from here. I may try there this weekend. I am becoming more convinced that cheap cables and CDP are the culprits. Not discounting the " it's the room" advise. I just do not know anything about how to "fix" a room, so I will start with what I know ( spending $$$$)!
I also have two other ideas. One brilliant and obvious....the other maybe just plain stupid, but must be done to satisfy my curiosity. Good idea....go to the uppidy B&W dealer in town and listen to speakers similar to mine just to see how they are supposed to sound when they are set up right with good components. Could be a real eye opener. Bad idea....(maybe)try swapping real crap into my system ( interconnects, amp, CDP ect.)just to see what crap sounds like. If it sounds all too familiar, but worse, I may find that the whole thing is a "I have been listening to crap" problem. The good thing about this approach is that I already own plenty of crap to experiment with!
I filled out a "consultation form" at usedcables.com. Waiting to see what they reccomend.
Any ideas for a good CDP? How much should I pay for one without going overboard? Also, my current CDP is a DVD player too. Is that OK or should there be a seperate unit for CD and DVD? Your advise is appreciated.
Another question....if I do decide on a new amp, will I get cleaner sound and more volume with a 300 by 5 amp using the speakers crossovers, or two 150 by 5 bi amped? Taking into consideration the extra cost for electronic crossover and cables, is bi amp worth it? The goal is LOUD and CLEAN.
I think the advantage of listening to the B&Ws at the dealer is that you can not only listen to the sound they make, but also what is paired with them, esp the source. I have not found a DVD player that can match dollar for dollar what you can get in a stand-alone CD player. There are so many that its hard to recommend, but may I suggest that you poll Audiogon members for which CDP they are playing with your exact speakers. I hope that your dealer has a listening room that is similar to yours. Its always "apples and oranges" but maybe you can get close. You will get several hundred recommendations for CDP! After all, we all think we made the right decision! But it will be your ears that will decide. Your money is best spent on a really good CDP instead of using the DVD. That may solve your issues, or at the least give you great sound. I think the B&Ws are simply projecting what they are given. By the way, I had ADCOM and didn't care for it, however, I helped a friend buy a nice system and he went with Rotel and I love his sound. He has a Rotel pre-amp, Rotel amp and B&W speakers (I can't remember which, but the tweeters are all similar and it sounds like the high frequencies are what's bothering you). Good luck and have fun shopping around!
How to fix a room - www.auralex.com. Send a drwaing or picture of your room with dimensions, openings, etc. At no charge they will make recommendations on what you should try.
Amps - In order to get twice the volume, you need 10x the power (sound is logrithmic). Doubling of the power will supply a "just-noticable-difference" in sound volume.
You don't want to be going into the complexity of bi-amping, when you have enough of the fundamentals it appears like you need to take care of first.
The easiest way to get loud and clean - get more efficient speakers.
If I want to eliminate CDP as the problem, is Denon 3910 a good choice?
Try searching the forums under digital. Use key words like "smooth, analog, sounding, best" etc...
A single disc stand alone cd player will give you better results over a combination dvd/cd player. If music is your objective, then go for that.
I found a few comments regarding Adcom gear as a bit on the bright side. Perhaps they ARE contributing to your problem? Still, there is a lot you can try for less $$$ before making that move.
Most dealers don't loan gear out like the "old days." You will be lucky if you have dealers that even cary the brands and models you may be looking for. Most used gear can be bought and sold through Audiogon with little or no loss. Consider the price for ads and shipping your rental fee for trying stuff out.
The Denon 3910 is an excellent universal player, but in stock form it does have a house sound. You may like that sound and you may not. If you are planning on upgrading the source, lay out some of your parameters (type of music you listen to, the sound you like, whether or not you require a universal player, budget), and be specific as possible. You will again might get many suggestions, but it will get you much closer toward choosing the source that will meet your preferences.
If you can live with a stand-alone CD player, for the price range of the Denon 3910, you might consider the Jolida JD-100A (tubed player, the Ah Tjoeb (tubed player), the Musical Hall (forget the model number), or the Quad CDP. There are other options as well, but any of these with a good pair of interconnects will likely calm a good deal of the harshness you are hearing.
Finally, I would definitely go hear the B&W's at the dealer. I've heard the CDM NT7 with a highly musical amplifier, and an excellent source, and the music sounded a bit choked and harsh. I attributed it to the speakers, but I could be wrong. Go hear them with good ancillary gear and see what you think.
OK, REALLY finally this time. Zee room, zee room, zee room. Start there first. I hope I've helped. You've received some excellent advice here from the other respondents.
All the best,
OK, I am going to start with things that need to be done anyway.( room and interconnects) Went to the auralex web site and was impressed. I am going to follow their suggestions. Thank you to the guys who insisted that I start with the room. I was not buying into that at first, but your persistance has convinced me. Also ordering new IC from Blue Jean. Seems to be good bang for the buck.
I went to B&W today and heard speakers similar to mine on a McIntosh amp. Even allowing that the amp is much better than mine, the difference is night and day. At least now I know what my speakers are capable of. That system sounded like angels singing, while mine sounds like the devil's playground.
I have also looked into the Jolida JD 100A. That is a must have. If for no other reason than to put it on a pedestal and admire it. May even listen to it from time to time!
Thank you one and all for your help. I think I am on the right track now. I will let you know what happens as the changes are done.
I pleased for you. The hunt was good! This website is really great and unlike so many other similar sites it has very few obnoxious "know-it-alls" who preach but don't teach. I'm glad you were able to hear your speakers at their best. All speakers have a "style" and with the right source and environment will give you years of pleasure. We look forward to hearing what you do to your room. Maybe you can teach us something!
I think you are approaching this in a wise fashion. Here is a summary of what I did with the auralex pannels.
After I determined the corners behind the speakers were the main culprets, I bought two 2x4 pannels and glued the pannels to a 2x8 foam inslulation pannel that I bought for $10 at Lowes (Auralex sells the glue for $20/can- Yikes!) I cut that down the middle, giving two 1x8' columns, which I wedged into the corners behind my speakers (Magneplanar 1.6QR's) It actually looks pretty good, since it gives me two tall thin columns flanking the tall thin black maggies. Also, the pannels are removable, since they are wedged into the corners and held in place by friction. I bought some smaller pieces and glued them to the ends facing out to hide the blue foam insulation panel. All of this cost me $95, and it completely removed the problem I was having. I bought some additional pieces that I'm still experimenting with for the back corners and side wall reflections. (If you have someone run a mirror along the side walls while you watch for the areas where you can see the speakers in the mirror. Try some panels in those locations too.
Then I would start with the weakest link approach to your equipment upgrade. If it were me, I'd replace the CD player and interconnects first and see where I was with the sound.
Your statement that you finally realize what the speaker is capable of is telling. I have Nautilus 802s which I really liked, but adding the MF Trivista showed me what the speakers could do.
Can you tell how excited everyone here is for you? No kidding. For probably less than half of your $2500 budget, you will have a quality of sound that will assuredly exceed the goal you had at the time of your initial post. Very cool!