New Member Needs Help


Hello everyone.  I am a new member and could really use some advice.  First, I hope I am posting this in the right section since I suspect the problem lies in the area of my electronics, although admittedly I am not sure.  I was a budding audiophile in my younger days and accrued some equipment, all bought new.  It consists of an Adcom GFA-555 amp, Adcom GTP-500 preamp/tuner, Adcom GCD-700 CD player and a B&O Beogram 1700 turntable.  I am using a set of Soundwave Grand Soliloquy speakers.   My wife would sometimes turn on the equipment for background music but there really hasn't been any serious listening in years.  

Having just retired I now have some free time, so after checking all the connections, I began listening to the system using the CD player as the source.  Overall, I thought it sounded very disappointing - pretty harsh and a bit thin, lacking in bass.  I couldn't listen to it very long.  I then tried the turntable.  The sound wasn't much different but the belt on the TT must be shot and the resulting rumble made serious listening difficult.

Having done some searching on this forum, I decided to pull the speaker cloth and examine the Grand Soliloquy speakers.  They looked perfect.  The cones and surrounds were butyl? rubber and looked good, as did the glue, which I read was a weak spot on some early model Soliloquys.  

So now I am wondering where to go next.  Could the amp/preamp have deteriorated that much with time?   Is that something I would audibly notice?  Would the crossovers in the speakers deteriorate over time?  Or maybe it is just my memory and I don't remember the sound very accurately?  And is any of this equipment up to today's standards and worth saving?  

I also have a pair of Ohm Walsh 2 speakers and an old Harmon Kardon HK730 receiver packed away that I could haul out for a comparison, but I am not sure that will answer any questions, and might confuse me more.  I appreciate any and all ideas from forum members.  Oh, and my room is large - about 14X22 feet.  Sorry for rambling a bit but thanks very much in advance.  
jpl



golftime
I would let all of it run with a signal going through it for several days before I made a quick judgement. The units may need to be powered up to fully charge the capacitors and let the units come to thermal stabilization.

Give it a week and see how it sounds. Go to a local audio store and have a listen to their entry level equipment and see where you stand in comparison. Take your own music so that you have a reference.

keep us posted on your progress!

good luck!

Hi JPL,

The equipment that you have is 25 or so years old.  When I broke up with my wife in 1990, one of the first things that I did after I rented an apartment, was to purchase for myself a nearly identical system ... Adcom GTP 500 II preamp/ tuner, Adcom 545 amp, Magnavox 630 CD player, and KEF Q55 speakers.   

If I read your post correctly, the system has always been connected, it is just that you and your wife did not do a lot of listening over the years.

What Tom has suggested makes sense ... let your system run for several days and then listen closely to see if you feel the same way.  If you have a real audio store nearby (Best Buy does not count) go listen to new speakers with music you are familiar with.  Speaker standards have changed pretty dramatically over the last 25 years.  So has your memory, if it is anything like mine.  

Adcom equipment was the first step up to the big leagues for a lot of people when they upgraded from the popular receiver/ turntable/ speaker set-ups in the 70's.  Adcom made serious looking black boxes.  In your current set-up, the weak link is the Adcom preamp/ tuner.  

Adcom preamps were never smooth ... but they were not so harsh sounding that listening was intolerable.  Even though Adcom represented a true step-up at the time for myself, the system was never consistently pleasing.  I stayed with the Adcom components as the system anchors for about a dozen years.  I changed out the speakers and cd player along the way, which helped.  It was when I swapped in an old Marantz 2230 receiver for the preamp, that I noticed how lacking and limiting the Adcom preamp was.  

If after a few days you feelings about your set-up have not changed, I might be tempted to swap in your HK 730 receiver and try it as a preamp or have it go directly into your speakers and see how it sounds.  One point to note is that that your HK is even older than the Adcom and may have issues of its own.

You have some homework.  Let us know how you make out and we can take it from there.  Fortunately, there are a number of real alternatives out there that are reasonable cost wise to pursue.


Rich  


Expect to replace a lot of electrolytic capacitors.
You have received good advice from Tom and Rich. Regarding the turntable, you will probably need a new cartridge as well as the belt. I take it that the system has seen little use over the last few years, I would want to test the speakers 1st. could you borrow a newer integrated amplifier to test them using your CD player?

Thank you guys.  I will let the system start to idle for a couple of days and try again.  I don't have access to any other systems locally as my friends are no longer into sound.  I am not even sure what real sound stores are around me.  There used to be a few but I think most of them went out.  

I have a follow up question.  I recall the Adcom stuff was Nelson Pass designed.  I have read about a number of places that I can send the Adcom electronics to (one being Musical Concepts) who will replace capacitors and perform upgrades.  Do the upgrades put the equipment in the same category as modern electronics such as a Bryston or Conrad Johnson, or am I putting lipstick on a pig?  

Nelson Pass did design the original 555.  You may want to read through this thread ... url=http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/solid-state/5280-adcom-555ii-nelson-pass.html.  

With that said, I would be asking the question ... does it make sense to rehab 25 year old equipment?  Did you like the Adcom equipment that much back in the day?  These can be tough questions.  Do you want to make major purchases having just retired.  I know as I ponder this myself ... I will be 59 and most of my equipment is at least a dozen years old.  I sometimes am tempted to sell what I have, buy all new Mcintosh  equipment, and let someone else worry about disposing it all in 20 years or so.  Such nice thoughts for a Sunday.    

None of this negates my feelings about the preamp being the weak link.  I don't know your speakers.  My inclination would be to start new with the major pieces, buy the best that I can afford, and be done with it.  I have been burned with enough vintage and older equipment over the years that I am inclined to buy quality and to buy new.      

Rich 

We are in a similar boat Rich.  Having recently retired at 60, I would like to use the equipment I have and save the major expenditure but clearly don't want to throw money at a lost cause.  The Grand Soliloquy's were great sounding speakers at the time and have been mentioned by others on this forum, but the company went belly up during some hard times.  In fact I used them to replace my Ohm Walsh 2's and felt they were a nice upgrade at the time.  As for the Adcom equipment, I found it to be good but alway felt it was a bit thin or harsh, although not as much as I hear now.  I appreciate the input from you guys.  I obviously have some decisions to consider.  
if your amp does not buzz and not noisy at idle, there is large chance that it will 'rejuvenate' while at idle. if speakers were 'sleeping' over years, they will also benefit hours of normal volume level playback so playing some constant music via tuner or other continuous source may certainly help to 'wake up'. 
There is always another way. Since you've retired, and conceivably have time on your hands, have you thought about DIY? Most of my system consists of DIY in one way or another.

I didn't build any electronics until I was about 62 YOA. I have now built custom vintage Tannoy speakers, a Transcendent Sound preamp, and two Class D Audio amps that sound WAY better than they have any right to. Also,you may need to update the caps in your speaker crossovers to get them to sound their best.

Price for the preamp kit: $499 Price for the two amp kits: About $600 You can have them built for you at extra cost. I can state unequivocally, I want for nothing in sound quality, and wouldn't change a thing, even if I won the Powerball lotto.

Something to think about.

Regards, and best of luck,
Dan
In addition to giving the system some time to settle in, I would get some good contact cleaner and clean all the connections from the power cord to the speakers. If the system has been connected for a while you might be surprised at the change. Oxidized connections can contribute to harsh, gritty sound. Dick
 Yes I agree with djohnson to start with a total contact cleaning.I use Deoxit red first and then follow up a second time with Deoxit Gold.I retreat with Gold every few months my speaker,CD and TT contacts.It's Amazing just how much better my system sounds with that simple tuneup.It actually does reduce harsh beamy sound which I hate.I can't live without Deoxit Gold.
I have tried Adcom and was quite disappointed. Nelson Pass is a great designer, so it might be the preamp. A similar company, Rotel made preamp/tuner combos, and the ones I tried were terrible, much worse than the Adcom I had for a while. It even sounds muddy as just a volume control for my subs. A Preamp/tuner seems to sacrifice a lot. I would start here. 

Also, CD players have improved the most over the last 25 years. My old Denon 1500, a "Stereophile" recommended one 25 years ago, really does not cut it anymore.

A really good budget one is the Onkyo DX-7555, for around $200-300 used. The remote has to be used to set the tweeter something or the other, and it makes a noticeable difference. I would also suggest a good phono cartridge upgrade. 

Your term, "Lacking in bass" is relative. Music has a lot more bass now than it used too.

I assume you listen in your car. Compare that system to one 25 years ago and consider that the inadequacies of your home system  are more obvious because of the comparison. I used to love my stacked Advents, but they sound pretty bland now. They have not changed. Everything else has.
If after cleaning all contacts and running your system in you are not satisfied, you might purchase a used integrated amplifier, one that is not too old. Even should you upgrade beyond, it could be sold without much loss. Regarding the TT, a new cartridge is probably required. 
I've had some build quality/reliability issues with Advent. Take a look at NAD and Parasound 
Upgrade everything and enjoy.
Golftime, I envy your golf time! congrats on your retirement! 

I had an Adcom 555/555 set for a while in one of my setups. Adcom was good value for money in the 90s, but I was shocked when an unassuming little Naim Nait 5i integrated amp that I had bought used simply made music more enjoyable.

If you gave me your rig, I'd ditch the Adcom front end, right down to the CD player. I'd want to see what those speakers and a little tuning to your Beolab can do with better electronics in the chain before condemning those.

I really like mesch's suggestion to borrow a nice integrated to try in your setup. If you are in Virginia, let me know. I'd be willing to bring a couple of mine over for you to try. I don't have anything high end, but everything I have I preferred to the Adcoms in any speaker matchup I've tried.

Another option is to try something like MusicDirect online that has a 60-day return policy. Contact them first to see what exactly it entails, but it is an option. If I were in your shoes, I would contact them to try a Rega Elex-R to see how that works in your system, better or worse. It may at least be a way to shortcut yourself to some answers about your turntable and speakers. If it works a treat, you know you are on the right path. Another option is something like a Naim Uniti or other all-in-one type product which may not be your cup of tea, but that may let you assess what replacing your entire front end electronics in one go would do for you without getting into mixing and matching a bunch of differing components.




First, thank you everyone for your responses.  The knowledge here is impressive.  I first took note of ebm's and several others suggestions to just move on with new equipment.  It is undoubtedly the simple and effective solution and I am going to give it serious consideration, particularly given the fact I am not sure any of my current components are worth trying to save.  

However besides the obvious issue of expense, replacing everything has other challenges.  I have been away from this stuff for about 20 years and the idea of starting the research all over is a bit daunting.  Making it even worse, there are almost no brick and mortar stores close to my house anymore......... other than Best Buy, which as was already mentioned, doesn't count.  

So here's where I'm at.  I let the system run several days, and although I sense some improvement, it's marginal.  I suspect the problem is more the electronics since the speakers were pretty innovative (Jim Vera design) when new and appear to be fine.  I also realize the Adcom amp, preamp and CD were probably just OK in their day, but are all weak links now.  Before I decide to simply move on, there are places such as Musical Concepts that claim they can perform mods/upgrades on the Adcoms that will smooth out the harshness and improve their overall warmth and sound - basically modernize them.  Does anyone have any experience with this?  Is it too good to be true?  I realize this is somewhat subjective, but it would help to know if these mods are a viable option.  
jpl
So here comes the big question ... what is your budget for replacing the preamp/ amp/ and player?  If you are considering new, I believe that you are looking at 3 to 4k for an integrated and CD player from companies like Creek or Rega.  If you like receivers, there is the Outlaw RR2150, which I have been using for 10 years, which would leave you plenty of dollars for a CD player and new cartridge.

Rich
This will be an opinion that is probably outside all of the other responses.  You can spend a lot of time chasing down issues with your current system.  How important is music to you?  Is it only for background entertainment or is on a deeper level.  I would be inclined to start over.  Do you listen to analog or digital or both?  You can put a really good system together without breaking the bank that would last many years with a totally integrated approach from top to bottom.  It may involve some travel to a real audio store.  Sometimes old equipment just doesn't play well together and trying to patch it together can be very frustrating.  Just my two cents 
I think you are wise to replace the electronics. Today integrated amplifiers are quite good and I believe one with phono stage would represent the best sonic return on investment for you. I would buy a recently produced used one as a start. Check out the AG listings.  
Golf-

you are using vintage gear, so there will be a vintage sound.
Go to your local Audio shop (or find one) and audition the newer gear.
Afterwards, you can make an informed decision on which way to go.

Keep me posted & Happy Listening!
There are ~35 integrated amplifiers selling for $500-$1000 listed here on AG. 

As you can probably determine from my first post, I was away from this for about 20 years - a long time.  When I started doing some serious listening to my system, I was obviously disappointed from what I heard.  As such, I had not set any budget.  I am working my way through all the usual questions - what are the weaknesses, what is needed to address those weaknesses, what are my options, what are the potential gains, and finally a personal decision, what is my level of commitment to make those changes.  There have been some responses here giving me different options with different costs, which I appreciate.

To answer the question, my sources are a 50-50 mix of LPs and CDs.  I also have a large number of digital downloads that I have never even played over my system - just listened thru a pair of Ultimate Ears earbuds.  

I agree with the suggestion that I first need to do some listening at an audio store to help me with those decisions, and see what "moves" me.  In the meantime, I plan to keep reading here including checking out the equipment being sold here.  Again, thank you for all the great responses and offers for assistance.  For someone who just jumped on here, you guys have treated me like an old friend.

golftime, there is so much equipment out there that it can become a real daunting, frustrating and confusing environment.  A good audio store will get you started.  Hopefully you can find several that carry respected lines to base your decision on.  The most important part is to really listen with your ears and forget the specifications of the equipment etc.  You will find a tonal balance that is pleasing to you which is all that matters.  Good luck.
Goose is right on, discover the tonal balance that pleases you and build around that. 

Golftime - I noticed that a user above offered to bring over some of his equipment if you were interested but the likelihood that you're in the same area is remote.  However, if you were to post your location there might be members here that would be willing to let you come listen to their system.  Obviously it depends on where you live but it's worth a try. Dick
Sorry for the delayed response.  Been busy prepping for a getaway to some nicer weather - Florida.  To answer the question, I live in central PA, outside Harrisburg.  Not to refuse help, but I think I will at least start with an audition of all current equipment in an audio shop and see where technology has come, and then go from there.  Thanks all.
jpl
Good luck with your search! Please get back to us after your research.

Addressing your Musical Concepts question: They’ve been at their business for quite some time and do know what they’re doing. They will replace all the electrolytics(some upgraded with polyprops/polystyrenes), some resistors and make other changes that will bring the gear’s sound quality into the 21st Century. Check out their prices, before visiting the audio shoppes. Keep in mind the power output you’ll have available, with the upgraded Adcom equipment and compare Dollar to wattage returns(new/old). I’ve never been a fan of Adcom, but- we’re taking about practicality.  BTW-  If you search, there are reviews of Musical Concepts' work online.
The good news is you're retired so you have lots of time.  This is a great opportunity to really have fun with this rather than viewing it as daunting.  Since you've been out of the game for so long your hearing and tastes in sound have probably changed as well.  You really need to re-discover what sounds good and what's important to you now, and the only way to do that is to go to at least a couple good dealers and see what stuff sounds good to you with your music.  Trust me, it will be well worth your time and you'll be glad you did it.  Once you can relate back what you found, in addition to you being better able to identify what you'd like to possibly try, we will also be in a much better position to make targeted recommendations for you to consider.  I have a feeling once you get the chance to hear good modern equipment set up properly at a good dealership you'll be surprised at how amazing this stuff can sound and then actually get excited about the journey.  And no, if I were you I would not even consider servicing your current equipment.  To me, the ONLY benefit of going that route is that it's easy.  There's lots of great equipment out there these days at very reasonable prices that will blow that stuff away, so it's well worth your effort especially now that you're retired.  Anyway, best of luck.