Not happy yet

I have recently discovered "hi-fi" and have been replacing a few parts of my system. But I have not yet got the involving sound I am looking for. My judgement of the sound: the bass is too loud relative to other sounds, and the voices aren't prominent and involving enough. The loss of tone controls in my new higher-end pre-amp and amp (replaced older receiver) means I can't throttle the bass back as I used to do.

Any advice on where to go next? Here is the equipment:

Yamaha CDX-410u CD player (older single-play player)
Classe CP-35 pre-amp
Rotel RB-981 Power amp
Celestion S300 speakers
Cabling is generic

Room is about 12' x 25', with 8' ceiling. The speakers are at one of the room, several feet from back and side walls. Bare hardwood floor, bare ceiling, fairly sparse wall decoration.

Music is mainly Jazz, older rock, folk. I notice the well-recorded jazz sounds pretty darn good, very good highs, decent voices on the best recordings. Jazz tends not to be bass-heavy to start with.

Any ideas on what the next upgrade or change (room treatment?) should be? I have to go one thing at a time, but I expect to replace almost everything (except possibly the pre-amp and speakers) along the way.

Thanks for any advice...
Dump the yamaha cd player first. Try to get your hands on a decent theta or classe transport. Add an out-board dac CLASSE DAC1 or theta pro-gen III IV or V. Begin upgrading your cabling start with a AES/EBU from the transport to the dac. Then go balanced to the pre-amp. Then balanced to the amp. This will start to open up your sound stage. Next dump the rotel for a classe 201 balanced amp. Up-grade your speaker cables to match your inter-connects. I recommend mit 330's for interconnects and mit shotgun 750's for speaker cable if your on a budget. (NOW YOUR COOKING). Now apply for another credit card and dump your speakers for a pair of Thiel's or Martin Logans This should clear up that bass problem nicely.Enjoy:~)
Ehart, i am not familiar with your speakers. Are they floorstanders, "bookshelf" units, monitors, etc ??? If bookshelfs or monitors, how do you have them situated ?

What type of "equipment holder" are you using ? Rack, entertainment center, desktop, etc ????

Am i correct in assuming that you're using some type of zip / monster type speaker cable ??? Sean
Three things hit me when I read. The room. The CD player. Cables. Not in that order.

I have nothing to offer about the room, just looks like it could use some.....something, like I said, I got nothing.

The CD about like the room, I once told a guy I thought he could stand to upgrade his player (which I believe would have made a big difference) and he went off with his tail between his legs. You might want to think about that upgrade, it'll probably make a big difference toward providing you with the sound you are looking for if you choose carefully.

The last and really only the second suggestion I have for you (counting the CD player) has already been hinted at by at least two others above. This would be your cables. Recent cable changes for me have made the largest single differences in sound that I can remember, especially with tightening up bass. I might even try this before I did anything about the other two areas I mentioned, since I don't know exactly what to tell you about those.
Your Cd player has a retail used valur of 40.00.
How much money do you have to spend.Forget the cables.Dont even consider this untill you have put your last available $ into a CD player upgrade.
Once you have listend to the system for a month or 2 them its time to see how much money you have to take the next step and go from there.
One other thing,you need to put a heavy area rug down.Need to tame the room slightly.
Dont try to do it all at once.One component at a time and slow and easy.
You will have to experiment, but what you describe can sometimes be caused by dirty AC power. Try a AC power conditioner. Ones that work well for not too much cash are: Monster HTS2000; Vansevers Super Companion; Audio Power Pack II; Panamax 1000. My favorites are the Vansevers and the Audio Power.
Much as I hate to agree with Thunders....he is correct. You have three things that need work.
The CD player should be the first and most expensive. Whatever you get, you probably want to keep for a while.
I suggest a 24bit HDCD player, or a good DAC if you prefer that route. The room you describe is hell on good sound. You might want to follow leaf's recommendation for a large area rug and bookshelves or drapes or something to help with the walls. Last would be the cables. Start with ICs. I don't know your speakers. Your Pre is made by a company whose Amps are great but there are better preamps in my opinion. Rotel is a solid performer for the price.
You may be able to improve your bass performance with speaker placement. Try pulling them away from the wall.
Thunders,Leafs,Snooker have some good points, as do others.
Lets not go overboard, or make too many changes at once,
but here are areas that need immediate attention.

1)Your CD player is really holding you back, there are no good Yamaha CDPs, since you have Rotel amp look for good used CDP here with 24/96 dac, like Rotel 991 which can be had for $600 used here. Also used Musical Fidelity A3CD,
Link Genki, Audio Refinement, Roksan Kandy/Caspian, Rega Planet and many others would make a huge improvement

2)Your interconnects, speaker cables, AC cords must be upgraded to better cables, the good news is there is huge selection of great used cables for any budget here at Audiogon. This will make a huge improvement, there are so many choices requires a seperate topic.

3)Very important to minimize room colorations/distortions.
You must put area rug (Persian or Turkish my preference)
between your listening seat and speakers, bare wood floors
are not good for music. Also place something in both corners of speaker wall to control sound distortions, large plant or decorative item. If your speakers are 6ft apart try to sit 6-8ft from speakers for best sound.

Keep the current preamp/power amp and speakers till these other areas are addressed.
My vote: replace the CD player and improve the room environment - forget about the cables and power cords (you've got bigger fish to fry!).

First, the CD player. You don't have to spend thousands of dollars here. There are a host of really good players for a $1,000 (Thule, Arcam, Classe - used). My recommendation, though, is that you buy a good used transport and buy an inexpensive but good DAC (Perpetual Tech, Monarchy, etc.). DAC prices are coming way down. Over the past twelve months I've compared some very expensive ones with these less expensive ones, and the difference is becoming fairly small.

Second, the room. Your room conditions suck. I know this becuase my room was fairly similar to yours. However, I've made a number of changes that have dramatically improved the sound performance. Without going into to too much detail, go to the TAS website (, access "Free Articles" and read REG's article on the eight ways to improve your speaker perfomance. This is a great article and will address the host of problems you are facing in your room. After making all the changes in my room I have improved the soundstage and frequency response. It's a striking improvement.

Good luck, and enjoy the music!
The Musical Fidelity is a good choice.Better than the Rotel.I have heard both in a room with Monitor Audio speakers.The A3CD is better.Do the CD wait a couple of months.Them go from there.
Cables can wait.
Somebody dis'd me with neg points and I think I know why. Last but not least pull out the CP-35 and up-grade to a cp-60 with external power supply. That's the cherry on the cake. Dinner is served:~)
What great responses! Thank you!

Can we focus on the heavy bass for minute (if it can be separated out)? I'd like to cure that first, if I have to choose.

The consensus seems to be replace the CD player first. Is that likely to affect the bass (as opposed to the highs)? I think of "problem" CD players as being too "bright", not too "boomy". Am I correct? I wouldn't object, my CD player sometimes spits out new CDs as unplayable (which they aren't).

Ditto for room treatment -- isn't this room too "lively"? Doesn't that translate to harsh treble? Or can it be boomy, sloshy bass also? BTW, my speakers are about 6 feet from back wall, 3 feet from side walls. Based on this feedback, I will try the speakers in a smaller, squarer, carpeted room to see what happens, and will work on my wife about getting a carpet.

I have experimented with cables (borrowed several speaker and IC sets from dealers while trying amp/pre-amps), and found that while I thought I could detect slight differences (maybe), they were far less than differences between different amp/pre-amp combos, for example, so decided to wait until other parts of my system were better, then listen to really nice cables. So right now my interconnects are Radio Shack's finest, and my speaker wires are 16-guage zip cord (I have 12-ga home-made also, when I can move my electronics closer to the speakers I will use those).

Based on the above logic (of elimination), I have been thinking/fearing that the boominess was mainly a speaker and/or power amp problem. The speakers are british (Celestion S-300), about 7 or 8 years old (I got them used in good shape). They cost about $1500 new, I paid about $700 3 or 4 years ago. They have a single small (6" or 8") woofer and a single tweeter. Very clear highs. They're heavy, floor-standing, with a full cabinet that has two openings (ports?) in the back. I think they are working hard in this room at higher volumes.

The Power Amp is new, I did notice that the other amp I demoed in my home(an Acurus 80)seemed considerably tighter on the bass, but I wanted to get rolling with something I could afford, and have another use in mind for this Rotel amp once I get a better one for the main system.

I will start with CD player and room treatment, because I trust the advice here. Just curious about the above questions.

Someone asked about budget. It's easiest for me (with the family and all) if I can bite off about $1000 at a time (probably that will be it for this year). I was thinking $500 to $1000 for a CD player (probably new/demo rather than used). Based on rep, I was thinking the Rotel RCD-971, but will listen to some of the others suggested here. Available locally: Rotel, Arcam, Rega, Marantz, and all the mainstream stuff (JVC, HK, etc).

I hope to spend $1000 to $2000 on the eventual power amp (which I may buy used, probably next year). The Classe suggestion sounds good.

I also hope to buy a headphone/headphone amp combo for under $1000 sometime in the next 6 months.

I hadn't grappled with budget for speaker or pre-amp replacement. I'm hoping to get better sound for the next year or two without going there. If/when it happens, I'm guessing speakers would be first, I'd hope to budget a couple thousand (shudder), but listening always seems to drive the budget up. I would want to learn more about pre-amps, would consider tubes based on what I've read at this site, but not sure. Likewise no firm budget for cables, which I would replace along with the CD and power amp.

Thank you again. Any answers to the above or further thoughts are appreciated!

- Eric
Equipment holder: Glen asked; it's a built-in wall cabinet The amp and pre-amp are stacked (amp on top), the CD and an old receiver (to be used temporarily as a tuner) are stacked (rx on top), and the turnable has it's own shelf.

- Eric
Ehart, what are you asking folks for advice for ??? Your the only one so far that has looked at this logically. While everyone can be pissed at me for saying this, so be it.

While many suggestions are valid in terms of building a system composed of better components and an improved listening atmosphere, none of them have approached your main problem right NOW. My guess is that you would like to get the gear that you currently have working as good as possible and then slowly build from there. If that is a correct assumption, then continue reading. Otherwise, skip this post and consider it gibberish.

At this point in time, i'm assuming that you HAVE played around quite a bit with speaker placement and your seated listening position. Other than that, here are some other comments / observations.

"Generic" cd players ARE bright and grainy. "Better" cd players are warmer and smoother. So much for fixing the "boom" problem with that suggestion.

Your room IS live. Adding more damping of ANY type will only absorb / dampen mids and highs, even if they are reflections. While this might help soundstage, imaging, etc... it will only further skew the tonal balance towards "warm mud". The only way to effectively minimize the "boom" would be via some form of "bass trap" or VERY large, VERY overstuffed furniture. Normal "acoustic treatments" and rugs do nothing below about 400 Hz or so due to the increased wavelength of low frequencies. Since this is where your main problem exists, you would be throwing your money away in terms of correcting the blasting bass.

Cabling CAN make quite a difference if you are experienced with a large quantity of cables and know what to use where. As such, i've commented on that below.

As to answering the questions that i asked of you, Thank you. It is much easier to diagnose a problem when you have the necessary info to do so. It was i that asked about your "equipment holder". As such, your set-up is quite conducive to "muddy" sound. This is especially true if the in-wall unit is located near a corner of the room. Either way, you REALLY need to do something with that situation. If at all possible, you need to get the components isolated from the shelf and other equipment. If worse comes to worse, stick the CD on top of the RX and use some ALUMINUM cones between them, point side facing the receiver lid. A small amount of sand in a FULL SIZED ZIP LOCK FREEZER bag on top of the CD player will help minimize airborne resonances. Use just enough sand to fill the bag out in a "flat" layer across the top of the CD. Nothing super thick or "lumpy", just a nice even layer. This may help "band aid" your problem, but you really do need to get some type of "audiophile approved" rack with a shelf for each component.

As to your speakers, there are several things that you could do. You did not mention if you are over a basement, i.e. you could have a suspended "bare wooden floor". If you are over a basement, the floor itself is resonating. While i can't see your Celestions "thumping" out bottom end in massive amounts, it might be just enough to cause problems. As such, slightly elevating the speakers OFF the floor can help reduce this while changing the driver to floor reflection point. This can either help or hurt ones' tonal balance, so try it and see. Moving the mid-woofer and tweeter closer to ear level will help to accentuate the mids and highs while slightly lowering bass output, so this might be a two-fold step in the right direction.

If that doesn't work, you can experiment with plugging the ports. This will play MAJOR games with the tuning of the cabinet and bass output levels. You will have to experiment with plugging one or both ports, a partial plug of one or two, etc... It is quite possible that a "resistive port" ( called a "variovent" or "aperiodic tuning" ) will work well for you. This can also affect power handling of the driver, so PAY ATTENTION to the results and don't overdue anything until you're sure that everything is working okay.

In terms of cables, your 16 gauge zip cord is not overtly offensive. Using a heavier "zip gauge" will tend to attenuate the upper mids and treble response while slightly accentuating the bass ( even though it would be firmer ). As such, i don't think that your speaker cables are part of the problem.

I have no idea about your interconnects. You might try using some generic "OEM" cables that came with the gear. These "el cheapo" cables tend to sound thin and bright, which might alleviate part of the problem. Otherwise, you might even try making some interconnects using a thin gauge enameled "magnet wire" that is available from Radio Shack. Should you want to tackle something like that, post something here or give me an email and we can go into details. I know that "Gizmo" had written about this type of cable a while back in Listener.

All of these suggestions are on the "quick fix" and "low budget" type of approach. I don't think that anyone here could give you a "this will work" type of answer without being there or examining / experimenting with the system first hand. I would rather see you work towards correcting your initial problem and make the system listenable than just add more "new" variables to it. While the end result would be nicer gear that cost more money, you might still end up with the same sonic mess that your experiencing now. By working with what you have to find the "problem", you'll know what components / situation needs the most attention right off the bat. Hope this helps and the "regulars" aren't too pissed at me : ) Sean
I also forgot one more thing. You have your speakers 6 feet from the back wall and 3 feet from the sidewall. As such, you will have MAJOR cancellation / reinforcement at specific frequencies. Since 3' and 6' are direct "harmonics" of each other in terms of acoustic wavelengths, that is a BAD way to have them set up. You need to find distances from the back and side walls that are NOT direct multiples or evenly divided into each other. This in itself might work wonders in terms of leveling out the in-room response. Sean
with your budget,Musical Fidelity A3CD
OK.. The coast is clear. I'm comming in for another pass. This time I'm flying a little lower in an attempt to hit my target.

How about adding a small sub-woofer to your system. Not for more bass actually for less more controlled bass. By adding a sub it allows you a means to cross over some of the bass signal that is being sent to your primary speakers. Thus allowing you more control over the lower frequencys. This is an honest attempt to help solve your problem. (See guys I'm a team player)

Another thing I would like to emphasize is to take your time. Spend the next few months thinking about what you are really trying to accomplish. What exactly are you trying to build? Is it a tube based system? or solid state? Or do you even know yet? Warm and bright? or dark with a sharp edge?Slow down and think. Don't play the pot luck game. Build it and tweak it in your head first. Talk to lots of people. Ask lots of questions. But most important listen to lots and lots of gear.(YOUR OWN CD'S) Let every purchase bring you one step closer to your ultimate system. And for god sake be patient.

Listen to the music and to what your ear is telling you. Look at the way things are cabled. Most of us here realize the importance of good cabling even if we don't like to admit to ourselves or others what we pay for it.

The virtual system I listed in my first post is in fact my bedroom system almost to the tee. Does it sound great? Yea, but it also took a few years of wheeling and dealing and a lot of tweaks,blood,sweat and that other thing oh yea TEARS to get there. Rest a sure when you start to get close to your dream system you will be happy. VERY VERY HAPPY:~)

PS- And don't forget to have fun doing it. That is what it's really all about in the first place.
Sean and Glen (and others), thanks so much for your thoughtful responses.

I will review some past threads on speaker placement. I don't think I've tried everything; in fact, I've noticed that moving the speakers closer to the sidewall does sound a bit better (bad for soundstage though).

We do have a basement, and the floor does resonate. I have spikes (unused right now), but that would make things worse, right? So I'm thinking to try setting the speakers on milk crates to start, or on partially inflated bike inner tubes somehow. I will try the various other suggested tweaks (CD player isolation, speaker ports, etc.) also.

I wonder if source material is part of it. Has my system become "revealing" of bad material? I listened to John Hiatt's latest yesterday and Lucinda William's first album today. Both sounded good. The Allman's "Eat a Peach" on the other hand sounded all mushy and boomy, drowned out the good guitar work. I bet it would sound better in my car.

Great advice to "take your time." I don't know for sure what sound I'm looking for. I will try to be patient!
Ehart, the frequency balance of your speakers, which I have spent some time with along with owning the SL6Si from which they are derived are very laid back in the mids and even into the highs. This lack of energy in the mid band tends to draw the ear to the bass, the problem may also be exacerbated by your room acoustics. Here are some free ideas to try in your room: Place pillows in the corners of the room, the corners on the floor will be fine but if you can also affix pillows to the ceiling corners all the better. Your marriage will be in dire trouble, but thing will change. Take a few cardboard boxes, stuff them loosely with newspaper, try them both in the room and in the floor corners. Extend the spikes in the base of the speakers as far as they will go. Try picking up some carpet samples at a carpet store. They are usually around 1'X 2'or so. Place them on the floor directly in front of the speakers. You might also try toeing the speakers in so that the tweeters point directly at you. This one's not so good, but sometimes the increase in upper frequencies will balance the bass a bit like the Rogers LS 3/5A. Most of all keep experimenting. We have all had these issues at one time or another and many or us still do.
Ehart. In addressing the bass, I think Sean is right on about experimenting with speaker height/isolation. I'm not familiar with your speakers but you said your speakers are floor standers. The tweeters in you speakers should be very near ear level when you are in your listening position. If this means they need to be put on small speakers stands I would try this first. In my past experiences this has always reduced the impact of the bass as well. My $.02.
Happy Tweeking!