Opinions on why this system is uninvolving

I have just upgraded my system in a number of ways from Snell Type A/IIs to Revel Studios; from Audible Illusions Modulus 2 to Hovland HP-1; and from the earliest EADs to Metronome Technology DAC and transport. I find the system uninvolving much of the time. I also find it lacking in dimensionality, find it sometimes hard sounding and I notice image wander. Here's the whole system:

Revel Studios
Hovland HP-1
MFA 200C mono amps
Metronome DAC and Transport
Shunyata Hydra on amps
Power Wedge I on other components
Various high end cords incl. Top Gun, Shunyata Mamba and EMI whales
Tara Prime (or perhaps 1800) speaker cables (bi-wiring)
Audioquest Ruby interconnects between amps and pre amp (about 30-foot run)
Hovland interconnct between DAC and preamp
Siecor optical AT&T between DAC and transport

Any thoughts on how to arrest these problems would be greatly appreciated. I was thinking about trying solid state amps like the Pass 250 or 350, the McCormack DNA line, Proceed or Rowland, but I'm not really sure that will make a sginficiant difference. I know it could change the sound signficantly, but not necessrily for the better (which I realize is completely subjective anyway).
Whats your room look like?

I remain
Your problems could lie in the cabling. You could try some acoustic zen stuff, it is really good and has a very "musical" sound. That could only improve on the systems uninvolving nature. You could also other cables amongst them the audience au24 or the hms gran finale, neither of which I personally have experience with, but have heard great things about. I run acoustic zen all around (hologram speaker cables and matrix ic's) and love them. Try out some new cable, you might be suprised at the difference it might make.
I would get rid of the Power Wedge and maybe the Shunyata Black Mamba, those 2 components in conjunction could make for a very muffled sound if that is what you are experiencing. I personally think no conditioner sounds better than the Power Wedge, they kill the dynamics and muffle the sound. I would also look at upgrading the long run of Ruby to something better.
Definitely recommend the McCormack DNA-2 for about $2200 used, and then sending it to McCormack for the Rev A upgrade at $2500. This will give you one of the very best amps out there. And I believe that the amp is the most critical piece to a system, especially for listener involvement.

Based on my experience, if your amp is doing it right (some to very many do not), so many other aspects of your system will sound 'right'.

After that, look for power conditioning and dedicated lines.
These tweaks along with the DNA-2 Rev A should give you the involvement you are seeking.

Clueless asks a very important question. Carpet or hardwood flooring, size, parallel walls, ceiling heights etc. All make a tremendous difference.

Imaging problems may be speaker placement, particularly speakers being too close to the side or rear walls. Check out cardas speaker placement page ... he recommends speakers miles out into the room ... it worked wonders for me.

As for dynamics, I'd also be interested to hear your comments as to how different the system sounds with the power conditioning removed, and with stock power cords on the amps. Anything that filters could conceivably restrict current and restrict the dynamics of a power amp.

Bear in mind that my experience is with much less expensive systems .. but I thought I'd offer my guesses.
The RUBY has to go.Also get rid of all the cables.And go with Hoveland all around. Synergy is where its at. Get the Power wedge out also. Simple is best.
How did your system sound BEFORE you upgraded?

If it was also uninvolving it could be the room, but if not then something else has changed for the worse!
Greetings "Znak_m",

The first thing that I would ask is, "Have you given your new system enough time to break in?" If not, this could be a major part of the univolving nature of your system.

If after break-in (anywhere between 20-100 hours or more of play time) you still don't have the sound that you are looking for, then perhaps one or more items are out of pace with the music.

If you can afford ($$$ as well as time) to do this, I would recommend starting one piece at a time, begining with removing the line conditioning out of the path, and starting with the amp(s). Then the cabling, and following that with the loudspeakers.

I understand the the Revels are rather finiky with placement, so you might want to experiment with their positioning.

In many instances, using the same cable throughout benefits the sound quality of your enire system.

The proper high quality amp can make a world of difference to your system, and I would recommend either a pure Class A solid-state, or a good tube amp.

If I can be of any further or more specific assistance, please feel free to e-mail anytime.

- - - -

Authorized dealer for the following recommended products that we carry to meet your criteria...

Audience - http://www.audience-av.com
(See the review of the Au24 cables and powerChord in the 8/02 Stereophile)

Chang Lightspeed - http://www.changlightspeed.com
(Line conditioners that allow the music to shine through)

Clayton Audio - http://www.claytonaudio.com
(World-Class pure Class A solid-state amplifiers)

Silverline Audio - http://www.silverlineaudio.com
(Loudspeaker systems that are magnificantly voiced)

Best regards,


High End Audio That Is Music To Your Ears
www.wenterprisesnw.com ||| wenw@qwest.net
Also Had a pair of Snell AIIIi's a number of years ago and have found almost every speaker (20+) since quite uninvolving. I feel your pain, the Snells were thrilling to look at, and to listen to. Absolutely amazing transient and dynamic cababilities, killer bass lock in room with natural timbre and color. That's progress in audio, unfortunately. Have heard the Revels, and that may be a large part of your issue-found them sterile and cold, but technically quite good (Salons which I had hooked to a Rowland 8ti). Maybe the cables could help here. (Warm em up with Cardas Golden Cross or Golden Reference?)Don't know your preamp, but did have the Metronome and found it rather flat dynamically tho it had a large soundstage. Sold it after 4 weeks. Please take this for what it's worth,your system is very good but these have been my experiences.
Since you changed your speakers, have you experimented on speaker position? Also, how are your room acoustics? Cables are probably your weak points. Before making drastic changes, (like changing amps) trying the above tweaks will probably get you a bigger difference in sound than changing your amp. If you do look at new amps, you should look at Plinius, Pass, Edge, and Classe, some of the best amps around.
I would highly recommend shortening the IC run between your preamp and amp. AND getting some different ICs. I agree with Natalie, the Ruby has to go.

Ditch the Power Wedge.

I do not know much about your amps... but you might want to get different amplification. I do not know much about your pre, it could be a weak link as well...

I would start with the cables. Then start with the amp and preamp combo.

Your Hovland will not like Pass amps. The Hovland has a high output impedance (2500 ohms, I believe) while the Pass amps have a low input impedance. I don't know about the MFA amps, probably not a problem since they are tubes (right?), but in combination with the long cable runs, incompatibility in this part of the system is one area I would look at. As a diagnostic measure, move some of your front end close to the amp and go to a 1M or 2M interconnect. Then, try a different amp and/or a different pre-amp. You are not looking for a typcial "different sound" here but for an obvious aha!, which will tell you something was amiss in the compatibility area. Good luck!
Your Hovland will not like Pass amps. The Hovland has a high output impedance (2500 ohms, I believe) while the Pass amps have a low input impedance. I don't know about the MFA amps, probably not a problem since they are tubes (right?), but in combination with the long cable runs, incompatibility in this part of the system is one area I would look at. As a diagnostic measure, move some of your front end close to the amp and go to a 1M or 2M interconnect. Then, try a different amp and/or a different pre-amp. You are not looking for a typcial "different sound" here but for an obvious aha!, which will tell you something was amiss in the compatibility area. Good luck!

Any chance you can get your Snells back? The Type A was a helluva speaker, and a very, very tough act to follow. I've had several customers who tried the Revels and were disappointed in them.

In my opinion the design concept of the Revels is very intelligent. I am all in favor of getting the reverberant field right. However, the Revels somehow don't live up to their potential. I've heard other speakers that also do a good job with the reverberant field, which are much more enjoyable long-term. Much as I'm a fan of Floyd Toole's theories, somehow the Revels just aren't convincing to me.

The Snell Type A's, on the other hand, are brilliant in execution as well as in concept. I'm quite sorry the speaker was discontinued.

I can think of several alternatives to the Revels, but without knowing what your priorities are, I hesitate to make a specific recommendation. Also, I don't know what an "MFA 200C" amplifier is.

Best of luck to you.

Make sure the power cord that leads to the Hydra is fully inserted into the Hydra. According to Shunyata's FAQ on the Hydra, this seems to be a recurring problem.
what a tough thread to read.... recommendations ranged through his entire system! i don't know what i would start with if I were znak!
Un-involving is such a vague word. You don't indicate if these upgrades were done over time, even a relatively short period, or all at once. I would always recommend changing only one component and living with the results a short while to reduce the number of variables and to be able to appreciate the incremental steps the set-up is taking. I think you may be being overly critical of your system, since the sound of your previous one is probably etched in your mind. If I had to guess from this distance, I would point to the overly long cable between pre and power amps; the length, not necessarily the quality as most here would postulate, seems highly dubious to my mind. I presume you may have had that long cable in your previous set-up, maybe your former components were not as sensitive to it. My basic recommendation: go slow, take things one step at a time and throw out the baby with the bathwater. Good day.
I hate to have to state the obvious, but an analog front end would do wonders.
Many thanks for your responses. I realize that the problems I stated are somewhat vague and that solutions, can run the gamut. In any envet , I will try to repsond to some of your questions.

First, the room. It is a large room about 30' x 25', carpeted. I use two tube traps behind the speakers and between them with the reflective side out. (I've noticed that the placement of these really changes the sound -- particulalry with respect to vocals; current placement seems to tame some raggedness to vocal sound and adds clarity and more solid placement). The Revels are about 3' from the back wall and about the same from the side walls; they are about 9-10 feet apart. Unfortuntely the back wall is mostly window as are the side walls. The listening areea is about 10-15 feet from the speakers.

Other problems I've noticed that I forgot to mention earlier are as follwos: (1) image height at times seems low; (2) female vocals seem thin; (3) complex passages of more than one instrument (for ex. violin and accordion on the Tin Hat Trio) get tangled and are not easily distinguishable); (4) no holographic or 3-D effects, image-wise; (5) cettain frequencies at times seem overly emphasized, but the bass seems ok. I have experimented with the two tweeter controls but have come to no firm conclusions.

I still have all of the components of the old system. One of you asked about the Snells. I have had them in the system for more than 20 years and so I am quite used to thier sound, which is vey smooth. They are a forgiivng speaker, so most recordings are listenable. I did find the old system "involving", but lacking in bass, detail, depth, soudstaging, and imaging was not great.

I recently put the EAD front end back in and realized that I liked the sound better although I'm sure there is a loss of information. Its seems with the Metronome, I hear too much, including sound that seems to fill the silences, which the EAD doesn't have. Vocals are much fuller and clearer with the EAD as well. By the same token, much detail is lost, including many facets of the sound of woodwinds for example. So because of less information, I guess it is easier to focus on the sound; it seems better integrated, albeit perhaps less "real". This is probaly a function of spending years with a forgiving system and I haven't adjusted to more information.

I do have an analogue set-up, currently not in use but soon to be. It is an Oracle with an ET-2 arm, and probably a Benz Ace (at least that's what Brooks Berdan recommended).

The 30' foot interconnect run was used in the old system as was the power wedge. Indeed, when I first put in the power wedge about 12 years ago or so, it improved the sound of the system in every parameter (the amp at the time was a Counterpoint SA-20).

The MFAs are monoblocks with 6 KT90s a side and put out 200 w/ch into 8 ohms (they halve thier power in triode mode which I never use).They were designed by Bruce Moore and Scott Frankland (Wavestream Kinetics)(MFA=Moore, Frankland Associates).

I really appreciate your taking the time to read this thread and to provide your input.
Sounds like the Revels might not be broken in yet.

Having owned MFA 200s, you should check the front
tubes if they haven't been serviced in a few years.

Don't know how good the Hovland is at pushing that long
cable run. Have you tried a shorter run?

Obviouly should have read "DON'T throw out the baby yatta, yatta ... Oops!
I heard the Revels at Ambrosia in Beverly Hills sourced by a Meridian CD player with Rowland amp and had the exact same feeling, "uninvolving". Also I'd add "sterile", "cold" and "clinical" to the description. I was with two other people that felt the exact same way. We then substituted $400 Acoustic Energy 300's which sounded much nicer - bass suffered but we all liked it better. Try substituting in some other speakers and see what happens.

Well, Revels do take about 200 hours to break in! That's about 1/5 to 1/10 of your output tubes' lives just to brak them in. I love the MFAs but, try running a solid state amp for a week straight to see if it helps. Also, 30' between amp and pre? Too long.
I heard the Revels at Ambrosia in Beverly Hills sourced by a Meridian CD player with Rowland amp and had the exact same feeling, "uninvolving". Also I'd add "sterile", "cold" and "clinical" to the description. I was with two other people that felt the exact same way. We then substituted $400 Acoustic Energy 300's which sounded much nicer - bass suffered but we all liked it better. Try substituting in some other speakers and see what happens.

Assuming break in, a couple of thoughts:

1. Get some sound treatment to deal with First reflections to avoid any brightness caused by the windows.

2. Most important, IMHO:
The Revel, Hovland, and Metronome are all VERY revealing pieces of equipment. Anyone of them (less with Metro) would potentially make you feel the system was "univolved" or "thin" at times since there is no coloration and they reveal so much of what is up stream.

To shoot at cabling only is like throwing a rock into Lake Michigan and hoping to change the water level. It needs to be done but not until you deal with the synergy of the R/H/M. Something or two, needs to go. The tube amp is not enough to counter the effects of these 3 peices.

Also, the Revel's alway get such mixed reviews... I wonder. My guess is that they are just a VERY difficult speaker to match. So when you match wrong, you get the bad reviews and when you match right, you get the great reviews.

I would start with changing the speaker. No speaker, IMO, is worth the hassle of trying to find the perfect synergy. I want a system that comes together eaiser than that.

Frankly, I think the Hovland is close to the same as the Revel is in being hard to match. When you get very transparent revealing stuff like this it presents a unique issue in dealing with making the sound "live or warm".

3. The other issue is how long you lived with your last speaker. This makes it hard to accept a new sound as being complete. I won't say more but it is going to, probably, haunt you to some extent no matter what you do.

4. Did you audition this stuff at all? Individually or as a system? These are pretty popular names/models right often people buy the name without thought to the synergy aspect of putting something together. When buying at this level you should have a very clear, and very personal experience, with what the sound characteristics of each piece of equipment you are investing in. If you don't have a dealer where you can hear these things you are at a serious disavantage. Best case of all is to hear the system you want, at home or at store, to fully understand the dynamics.

5. Related to all these things, especially #4, is synergy and picking equipment that works together...regardless of name, price, or style. It is hard to do this but worth the effort. I have been forunate enough to have a good friend who owns a shop who has the magic touch when it comes to this synergy issue. This balancing everything and bringing in cables at the end to touch things up a bit here and there. Don't depend on the cables to transform the system. It will play a part, a very important part, but it is the icing on the cake so to speak.

Hope this helps, have fun.

PS If it was me, I would sell all the stuff and start over.

Thanks for writing back with so much additional information.

I'm not familiar with your amps, but I am somewhat familiar with the KT-90. That's a helluva tube. Incredibly powerful and dynamic, almost impossible to kill, but a bit on the bright side (that's where rolling the front end tubes comes in). Your amps are rated at 200 watts, and I bet that's conservative. Those tubes could easily crank out well over 300 watts.

I still think you're primarily looking at a speaker problem. But before you go speaker shopping, if feasible try moving the speakers about six feet out into the room. Turn up the rear tweeter a bit. Put a couple of your tube traps (or some other treatment - I use fake ficus trees for diffusion) at the first sidewall reflection points. I suspect you may have too many tube traps around the speakers - see if you can get away with fewer, or move the ones you have farther away.

In the meantime, if you still want to play along, I'd like to ask you a few questions about your personal speaker preferences. The speakers you've chosen and the dissatisfactions you've expressed give me some idea of your personal priorities - I think you want a smooth, forgiving tonal balance; excellent inner detail and articulation; good dynamic contrast (though that's not the top priority); natural timbre and rich textures; fairly deep bass extension (subterranian not necessary); excellent soundstaging characteristics (especially in depth); and last but not least long-term fatigue-free listening. Correct me where I'm wrong, and add anything else you see fit. And if you'd like to play along, I could use a little more information:

Would you prefer very good soundstaging for a single listener, or good soundstaging over a wide listening area?

Would you prefer more of a front-of-the-hall presentation, or a more middle-of-the-hall presentation?

Could you rank by relative importance: Good sound at low volume; good sound at medium volume; and good sound at high volume. What's the loudest (at the listening position) that you normally listen?

How much flexibility do you have in speaker placement?

And finally, are there any other traits you especially want - or do NOT want - in a speaker?

If you want to explore this line of thinking, I'll try to come up with a few potentially useful suggestions. Don't worry - I'm more than willing to suggest something I don't sell if I think that would better meet your needs.

Best wishes,

In my experience, the word "involving" is typically attributable to the speaker/room placement. Because of the other soundstage type problems you mentioned, I think this is the place to start.

My room is much smaller, but I've had movements as small as a couple inches affect what I characterize as "involving". You may want to start by trying a closer listening position and/or different toe-in.

The other culprit could be the pre-amp/amp impedance matching thing mentioned previously. Call the manufacturers of your equipment and tell them the problem and associated equipment. They will know infinitely more than probably anyone on this board about how your equipment may be interacting. Good luck.
Dear Audiokinesis: Thanks for the input and yeah I want to "play along". First, you pretty much nailed my listening biases. The only thing not mentioned in your analysis is what I would call differentiation of instrumental timbres, which perhaps you simply stated in another way. I listen to all kinds of music at genrally medium volume for serious listening. I do crank it up on rock now and then, when I'm doing something else, and this system does play loud. But, you wouldn't want to listen carefully for too long under such circumstances because I think it gets hard after awhile. I prefer wider dispersion and front of the hall presentation although this particular aspect is not that important. In other words, I could live with middle of the hall.

I have some flexibility in speaker placement, but doubt that I can move them more than a couple of more feet into the room. There is furniture in there.

In terms of rolling the front end tubes, I'm not sure what you mean. All of the KT90s are fairly new. The OA2s are not new, but the other two (whose umbers I can't remember are also not too old).
jeez tuna, you give this great synopsis and then your PS, How disheartening.

It seems to me that Duke has nailed things down quite well. You are going from a warm system to ultra high resolution that presents greater challenges in matching ancillaries. The speakers are probably so different from what you are coming from that in addition to the transparent components in front, are presenting a sound you are having problems with. The quality or lack of the recordings can also play a big part in overall enjoyment long term. High resolution is no free ride, there is a price to pay the piper. I DO understand your dilemna. I have been there. As tuna notes synergy is key and you haven't found it and most likely won't with your current lineup, cables notwithstanding. I think if you are not too attached to the speakers, it is the first component to consider replacing if not outright ditch. I would look for something with a warmer balance maybe between the Revel and Snell. Since you lived with the Snell so long they must have been doing something right.

I don't feel you will be happy long term with the Revel in the mix. View this for what it's worth, one man's .02.
Before you start replacing cables and components, give some more thought to your speaker placement. You should try near field listening to eliminate some of the problems with the side windows. Try moving the speakers to about 6 feet from the back wall, and move them in to about 8 feet apart. Put your listening position so that it forms an equilateral triangle. This should firm up and fill-in the center image and increase the sound stage. Play with speaker toe-in and the tube traps to work the center image and sound stage. I believe that George Cardas (cables) has a speaker method that may be of benefit. Good Luck
Dear Bbtuna: I have wanted to dampen the first reflections and a local dealer had promised to bring over some materials for this purpose but it hasn't happened yet.

I agree with your observations about the Revels but not about the Hovland. I did audition both, although at the time I auditoned the Revels, my amps weren't working, so a Bryston was used. I also auditioned Vandersteen 5s, which I liked a lot but which I felt had less heft and less detail, aspects that I now realize aren't that important to me. I bought the Revels despite some reservations.

The Revels were in the system before the Hovland and I was having the same problems only worse. When I auditoned the Hovaland, the sound got much better to my ears; it could breath whereas with the old Audible Illusions, the sound was constricted and harder. The Hovaland was a big improvement, so I don't think that is where the problem lies now. I didn't audition the Metronome equipment; I just figured the EAD was so old the state of the art must have changed.

Hockey, do you realize what you are saying? You gotta' know that there's at least one Revel idolater in this thread who worships the spiked feet that the Studio's rest on?

And in one swell foop, you brought their shrine down to a pile of rubble.

I'm not a Madrigal fan myself but you know there is a following.

Znak_m, your initial impression of the Vandersteen model 5's is a very common one according to the rumors. But once situatated, settled-in, burned -in, mated with appropriate equipment, the Vandersteen Model 5 is claimed to be one the most outstanding speakers made. Again, according to rumors and reviews.

If you should happen to read up on the man Rick Vandersteen and the tremendous detail he put into the design of the Vm5's, it becomes apparent why some consider it among the best. Time and phase coherent, every driver is custom made, the inertness of the cabinet, the first order crossovers, upgradeability, the list goes on. Make no mistake, RV is anal.

If you have the means to consider speaker replacement, read as much as you can about about the Vm5's and give 'em another 'thorough' chance.


So what you are saying is that you got your gear at a dealer? Even though I love AGON there is no replacement for a good dealer, yes, we pay more but we get more...A LOT more.

With this in mind, the speakers are probably not that old right? If not, I would go back to the dealer and tell him you are having problems with synergy and suspect the speaker is at the heart of the whole thing. Ask 2 things:
1. Can I try the Vandies, or whatever else you are interested in, at home? If the answer is "No" there is a problem. But from what you have said, I assume they will be cooperative. My dealer buddy has driven 3 hours to drop off equipment and has mailed out Lamm ML1s and Art Audio Mono blocks for a person to test in their system - at the same time no less. So hopefully your dealer will work with you.
2. My dealer will take your current purchase back within a year and give you the full price you paid toward an upgrade. This is not unheard of (though I am afraid it is getting much rarer). Either way, I would ask if you can trade them in on something simliar and you pay difference if they are more and he gives you a credit if you trade down.

Now, before you go that far I would:
1. Make sure your equipment is REAL broken in.
2. Get that first reflection issue taken care of.
3. Insure your speaker placement is optimal (dealer should help if you are stuck) if you are confident in him, do some research to get at this. People on AGON can help.
4. AFTER 1-3...Now this is going to sound like I am talking out both sides of my mouth but I am not. I would get your dealer to lend you cables (broken in cables) that are warmer - usually solid core but not exculsively and try out different combinations to see how much impact this has. If 1-3 moves you in the right direction, a fair amount, then this last step would probably provide the answer of changing speakers.

You can still toy with different speakers while you go through 1-4.

good luck, it sounds like fun,
Bbtuna. Thanks again for the info. The local dealer I bought the Revels from (they were his demo pair)is a small dealer in the sense that he doesn't carry many products. He doesn't carry the Vandersteens and the closest dealer for them is about 3 hours away. Not insurmountable but I doubt that I could hear them at home simply because the dealer won't sell the demos (which is probbly the only way I could hear them at home)because it takes about 16 weeks to get a new pair, according to him.

I doubt the dealer here would take back the Revels, but it doesn't hurt to ask; its just that he has nothing to replace them with and probably can't buy them back.

In any event I will certainly try your suggestions.
Znak m- Your MFA 200 uses octal base front end tubes 6SL7 or the mil spec version 5691, if I remember correctly. If
you've never replaced these tubes, you should try some new ones. They last longer than the output tubes, but they do
wear out.

As I posted above, not all tube preamps can drive long
cable runs. The Hovland's high output impedance of 2500 ohms can cause interactions with long cable runs, unless
it sees a high input impedance on the amps. Their amp's
input impedance is 680K ohms.

I'm not suggesting you replace your 30' cable run with another brand of cable, just try a shorter run between the
preamp/amp and see want happens.

If you need help with the MFAs, suggest you contact Scott
I haven't read any posts because there are too many and I'm too lazy, plus some of them are most likely worthless, sorry, I had to say that. If I'm being redundant, I apologize, I would get rid of all conditioners, especially the power wedge and go directly to the wall provided you have dedicated lines. Anytime I've used any form of conditioning except power cords it is exactly as you describe.
Znak_m here is the quick cure (your MFA's are good amps)
I know Scott Frankland - he does good work.

1) Take the Hydra OFF of the amps.
2) Use any PC you have two of on the amps (hopefully you can use the BMI's). If you have been using Shunyata's on the Amps, use stock PC's.
Plug direct to wall if possible.

3) Plug the Metronomes into the Hydra.

3a) Try the various PC's you have left over on the digital gear swap the Mamba & Top Gun between the DAC and Transport

4) report back to us to let us know about the changes you hear.

Also.. what EAD front end were you using? The EAD T-7000 perhaps???
I really get a kick out of you folks that think changing
around some power cords will solve Znak_m's issues with
his already excellent system.

No amount of money spent on some fancy power cords can make up for a system mismatch between a preamp and power amp.

Znak_m, the Revels are great speakers, please seek out
my friend Scott Frankland and discuss the the interface
of your new Hovland to the M200s.


Maui Dan
Tubegroove is right, dump the speakers. Look around, stay away from wjat people call "high resolution"; look for what people call "musical." Vandys are not your answer. Spendors, guys?

Bwhite also right, get those nice amps OUT of the Hydra and into the wall. Plug CD/pre into Hydra. Avoid long IC's if at all possible.

Get better IC's/spkr cabling. Ask around, see other posts, say how much you are willing to drop.

Hovland nice, good company, but Supratek far better, less money. You'd like it. See current thread on it.

Good luck!!
I appreacite all of your suggestions. Before doing anything rash, I am going to take Kana813's advice and check out the impedance interactions between these components and talk to Scott Frankland. I understand he is a dealer (or works at one) in San Jose. By the way, Kana813, you're right about the octal front end tubes on the MFAs, but they are not that old.

I will also switch the Shunyata to the digital front end and preamp and plug the amps right into the wall sockets which are dedicated. Oddly enough, yesterday just taking the Mamba off the DAC and replacing it with a Sidewinder seemed to result in some improvement.

BWhite, the EADs are the 7000 series; the first series they produced, I think. I have been thinking about trying the EAD transport with the Metronome DAC to see if it sounds better than the Metronome transport; the EAD transport is built like a tank.

Many of you have suggested getting rid of the 30' interconnect run, but to do that would require a 30' run from the preamp to the DAC (not to mention the tuner, SACD, and turntable). Would that be a better situation anyway? It would be inconvenient this way as the preamp would no longer be close to the listening position and would instead be close to the speakers. Are there any ICs of which any of you are aware that the Hovaland might have an easier time running at 30'?

Thanks again.
I have always thought the Revel Studio's were clinical but they focus very well. I think the Studio's need high-current solid-state amplification to sound their best. IMO, the image wander you mention could be attributed to your amplification.

The lack of dimensionality makes me suspect your DAC or transport.

I would definately take a look at different speaker cables. There is much better out there then Tara Labs. Generally I have found Tara Labs to sound vieled and soft.
Just try the shorter interconnect on a temporary basis to see if that is where the problem lies. If it is, then you can consider various options.
Just try the shorter interconnect on a temporary basis to see if that is where the problem lies. If it is, then you can consider various options.
Znak_m, I have to believe the EAD T-7000 Transport will kill the Metronome. Sorry to say but its true. The EAD beat out many transports under 10K in my own system. :( Plug it into the metronome DAC and get ready for something special!

Also, I have to repeat, the Hydra should ONLY be used on your digital gear. Its not a good thing for amps/preamps.

Don't worry about the 30' run of cable. That is the least of your issues. The Revels are great speakers but are to some extent "impersonal" and less "involving" than other speakers you've lived with making synergy a more delicate path to tread...that said, the Revels will play exactly what you send them so... this becomes simply a case of matching the right cables & conditioners with the right components.

And if you can stomach it, use the EAD. Its outstanding! IF you don't want to use it, please....sell it to me.
While it's okay to keep tweaking the system, if you don't loose too much on the speakers (since they were demos) my guess is you will never be happy with Revels. Unless maybe a tube preamp - I don't know what your preamp is now.
Accurate sound does not have to be clinical. But Bbtuna made one of the best statements that I have also discovered:
"system was "univolved" or "thin" at times since there is no coloration"
That's how my system sounds. Problem is when you add coloration, good recordings could sound bad while bad recordings could sound better. Overall I think you're loosing out by adding colorations. But that is just my opinion.
I would recommend ATC active 100's or 50's. You can see a photo of passive ATC 50's that are being sold at Audiogon now. They are very accurate but not sterile like Revels. I found Spendor 1/2's, Vandersteen 2 and 3 are nice but colored or have box resonances and don't think that is where you'd want to go.
Other warmer speakers that you could try are JM Reynaud Evolutions or Aerial Acoustics. Accurate but warm. JMR talks about the "trailing edge" of the note while Revels are "leading edge of the note" speakers.
Znak -

Thanks for responding to me up above; I haven't had a chance to write you a decent response before now.

By "tube rolling", I mean trying different tubes to get the overall sonic characteristics you want. "Rolling the front end" would mean trying different tubes in the front end, in hopes of enhancing the overall synergy. It's kinda fun.

I appreciate your articulating the requirement for "differentiation of instrumental timbres". I've never heard that expression before, but it's richly descriptive - I'm gonna remember it.

Differentiation of instrumental timbres would be facilitated by natural decay of the notes, so that the harmonic structure isn't blurred or colored. Any resonances will spoil the timbre as the notes decay, because the ear perceives a sound that lasts longer as being louder.

As a side note, when Jon Dahlquist designed the legendary DQ-10, he had to choose between aligning the leading edges of the notes, or the trailing edges of the notes (attack or decay). His listening tests indicated that the ear is more sensitive to what's happening in the trailing edges of the notes, so that's what he optimized in the DQ-10.

Loudspeakers that don't use boxes have an inherent advantage in getting timbre and decay right, because at least three potentially significant problems are neatly sidestepped: internal box resonances, box panel resonances, and re-radiation of the woofer's backwave through the cone. As an example of this breed, the Quad 57 is still celebrated for its clarity and natural timbre.

If you want full-range reproduction with extremely natural instrumental timbre and decay of the notes, there are three speaker lines I suggest: Audio Artistry, Beveridge, and Sound Lab. Audio Artistry uses dynamic drivers and gives you more of a front-of-the-hall presentation; Beveridge gives you more of a middle to rear of the hall presentation; and Sound Lab gives you more of a middle of the hall presentation. I'm a dealer for Sound Lab, but still an admirer of Beveridge (see www.beveridge-audio.com) and Audio Artistry. The two electrostats mentioned here give you a very wide sweet spot, and while the Audio Artistry line gives a more conventional sweet spot, their dynamic impact is phenomenal.

I'm not saying that these three are the only possible solutions - only that they excel in the area you have highlighted; namely, differentiation of instrumental timbres. "Full-range" single-driver systems like the Beauhorn also excel at this, but don't have authority in the bottom two octaves.

I can talk your ear off about either the Beveridges, Audio Artistrys, or Sound Labs, if you'd like to know more.

Best of luck in your quest,

Asa, I've never listened to the Vandersteen Model 5, nor have I ever seen a model 5 in person. Now that you know where I'm coming from, I'm going to say that you probably don't have a clue what you're talking about when it comes to the Vm5's.

You may have listened to them, but as with any listening, even as illustrated in this thread, if everything ain't matchin' you would have no clue what the component or speaker is capable of.

I am basing my opinion solely on reading reviews and detailed papers on the model 5, reading interviews with R.Vandersteen the man and also on his research into making the model 5, and a friend who is seriously considering the model 5's at this point in time.

But supposedly one common occurrence with the Vm5's is that the initial impression of listening to the model 5's is people walk away wanting more and not satisfied. They say that listening to some of the more popular speakers on the market with pumped up highs to make a speaker sound better in the showroom or perform other showroom tricks will make those sound more 'hi-end' than the Vm5's. They say it takes some time for the listener to settle before they realize exactly what they are hearing.

Time and phase coherent, first order crossovers, each driver is custom fabricated to compensate for the typcial deficiencies found in almost all drivers, the cabinet's inert construction qualities, etc., etc.. Most people cannot believe he is only charging $10k for these speakers.

I'll stop there. You may be correct in your opinion. But for now I have no reason not to believe these could be one of the finest speaker systems made. And I'm not alone.

I woud look into upgrading the speaker cables the Prime are a good budget cable but not up to the level of your system.I recently borrowed a pair of Tara Ref. Gen IIs from my dealer and they sound very nice. They would also add a little warmth to balance out your Ravels as they can sound cold at a times.Better Yet try the Tara Air 2 speaker cables.They are neutral yet slightly warm and will help to flesh out the sound.Good luck.
You mentioned windows on front and side walls. You COVER them while listening I hope? My other take would be to sit closer- 15' is probably too far for distance between speakers of 9-10'. I also agree with some of the comments regarding filtering. Go back to stock power cords (try one at a time).

And cables make world of a difference.

Finally in Hockey's defense, I would say that I completely agree with him about the Revel-Rowland combo at Ambrosia. I have listened the combo may be three different times and left me wanting more body. But I can't say if it is due to Revel Salons or The Rowland or the combo synergy.
Bwhite: I tried everything you suggested and it made a significant difference. Its still not completely there,b ut much better. The EAD transport surprised me. What do you think, by the way, of the Audiomeca DAC?