Get rid of the receiver and get a decent intergrated Amp.
A receiver is NEVER good enought for 2 channel listening IME.
A receiver is NEVER good enought for 2 channel listening IME.
Ucsb21, you stated in part "I also noticed that a lot of albums (that I used to think sounded ok) sounds terrible on my new system" and "I've tinkered with the tone controls and it is a quick fix but, a few albums are still unbearable."
You will get more helpful responses if you are more descriptive and precise (rather than 'terrible' and 'unbearable') as to what it is that you are finding problematic about the source material, and, perhaps provide an example or two of the problematic source material.
The better your equipment, the more you are going to notice differences between recordings, both good and bad. There's nothing we can do about improving the recording, it *is* the source. I'm finding myself increasingly more concerned about buying better recordings than better gear.
If you're system is biased with coloration, it will tend to make everything sound more uniform. Some find this more pleasant to listen to because it helps hide the imperfections of recordings. It's a double edged sword, a choice between either pretty and artificial, or real and wrinkles.
If you are referring to hyper compressed modern CD's then you are not alone with this problem. A lot of music is mastered today for car systems and boom boxes. This can help but it won't cure a hypercompressed CD - it may only take the edge off it slightly.
If you only like Metallica, Green Day, Arctic Monkeys, Fratellis and such fare then unfortunately you are in trouble - you may want to search for Vinyl - usually these are not mastered so badly but you are looking at significant effort and cost to try to get better source recordings.
You may be new, but it didn't take you long to discover one of the biggest banes of our hobby. Poor recordings, often times, just might be the weakest link in our systems. A good equalizer might help sometimes, not help other times, and a poor equalizer might make things worse most of the time. The balancing of a systems resolution to deal with the variable quality of recordings often times comes down to very personal choices.
As Fafafion suggests, you could start to think about component upgrades. If you find the right combination of pieces, the poorly-recorded music can sound much better.
There is a caveat, though. Systems, and people's listening tastes, can take different directions. Some like a setup that can pull the last squeak of detail out of the recording, revealing the mechanics and structure of the music like sunlight on Mercury (the planet, not the label). Systems like this can make the poor recordings stand out with embarrassing clarity.
It is also possible to build a system which, while still providing piles of detail, doesn't make you want to sideline a great performance just because the recording is blah. If this is the kind of system you want, build it by shopping with your favourite poor recordings among the test material.
If I had your problem I'd simply get a cheap 2d CD player and put a cheap equalizer between it and your receiver and reserve its use for those times you must hear the poorly recorded CD's.
There is no really good way of dumbing down a system so bad CD's will sound good, but I agree that you can improve the sound of a lot of 'bad' CD's if you put the money into a carefully thought out up-grade of your system.
A lot of folks have found that using (some, not all) tube CDP's and tube buffers helps with some CD's which are simply recorded hot and need some taming in the highs. With a buffer or tube CDP/DAC you can also control the tone quite a bit by tube selection.
Just something to think about.
Oh, another cure of sorts - when you are listening to the 'bad' CD's turn down the volume! :-)
Hi Ucsb21, Tell us a little more about your system, are the speakers new? The reason I ask is that some new speakers need to be played for a while so the rubber surrounds can loosen up, and I've read where your speakers are notorious for that and takes lots time. How are they positioned? Try aiming straight ahead with no toe-in and see if that helps, sometimes aiming a tweeter straight at your ears can sound harsh, but not always. also, how close are they to the back wall? Try moving closer or farther, it can change the tonal balance and help sometimes. Maybe a tube CD player will help, if you know someone that has one ask to borrow, their are used ones that come up here on the GON for not too much $. Look for Jolida or AH tube. etc. Good luck!!
Thanks for the replies people!
Let's see. To Musicnoise and Racamuti: I have a Rotel RCD 1072 connected to a Rotel RX 1050 via some basic Mogami cables. My speakers are Dynaudio Focus 140s and my speaker wires are Tara Lab Prisms.
The major issue I have with some of my albums is that the mids and highs appear to be hidden behind the music. The crash of cymbals, the snap of the snare, vocals etc. sound muted or veiled. If I adjust the treble and turn the volume up it makes it a little better but, not always.
The speakers are new and are nowhere close to the 100+ hours of break in but, I do have a lot of albums that sound fantastic with this current set up. Some examples include, Demolition by Ryan Adams, New Amsterdam Live at Heineken Music Hall by Counting Crows, Graceland Paul Simon, James Taylor greatest hits, Confrontation Bob Marley etc.
Albums that sound ok but, wish could be better include The gentle side of Coltrane and Subtitulo and Home by Josh Rouse.
Albums that were disappointments: Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins and Let's talk about feelings by Lagwagon (HDCD), Futures by Jimmy eat World and Till the sun turns black by Ray Lamontagne and Lifted by John Legend.
Like, Shadorne mentioned, the recordings by the pop/punk labels sound the worst. With that being said I have plenty of pop/punk/hip hop albums that sound fantastic like, Lagwagon's Hoss and Wyclef Jeans' Carnival so again it is very hit and miss.
Again, the major issue for me was the missing mids and highs. Bass is not usually a problem. Sometimes it is a little boomy and loose but, that is most likely because of speaker positioning and the shortcomings from my receiver.
I am definitely going to have to start looking at higher quality recordings from now on! I'm very interested in seeing how much of a difference a dedicated amplifier and pre amp makes. Since I don't have enough money to upgrade both I'm thinking of using the receiver as a pre amp for now.
Thanks again for the replies!!!
Tobias has got it right. I think what happens to a lot of folks relatively new to the audiophile game is that they get seduced by the detailed sound of a few of the best CDs through a very detailed system, and then are horrified to discover (over time) that a lot of good material suddenly sounds lousy, and even unlistenable.
It doesn't have to be that way. As you listen to potential new gear, however, you have to become very conscious of the issue of listening fatigue, and how well a system brings out the best in even mediocre recordings. Trust your ears first, not a salesperson's (or Audiogoners' advice), unless you're satisfied that whomever it is shares your listening goals. (Personally, I would particularly cautious with that is described as "accurate" or "neutral." Those terms are misused or overused with some regularity, and sometimes can be translated to mean "bright" and "fatiguing.")
A number of us have been on the search for a compromise system for some time. Just look around on Audiogon...you'll find this issue discussed and debated fairly regularly. You'll likely at least get some ideas of some gear you might want to sample. Then, trust your ears.
Your last detailed statement has me raising my eyebrows. You aren't happy with the sound of any recording, yes? If so, this is indicating something else. Until you identify the problem, you could spend a lot of time and many thousands of dollars stabbing in the dark changing this, trying that, and spinning your wheels. To analyze this through a forum thread is not likely to find the problem or get you any closer to a solution. Do you have any audio friends that can listen first hand?
In the mean time, try experimenting with speaker placement, toe-in, front wall distance, side wall distance. See what happens.
Hey Pac Islands,
'You aren't happy with the sound of any recording, yes?'
actually I own a ton of albums that sound fantastic on my system. I gave some examples on my last post of a few that sounded fantastic, a few that were disappointments and some that just didn't do it for me.
I guess my fundamental question is whether some albums will sound bad no matter what kind of system (regardless of price) it is played on. From the responses I've seen on other threads and also from messages I have received it looks like the answer would be a yes.
I think the next step for me would be to bring the albums that I consider less than stellar with me to some shops around town and play them on various set ups and see if they sound better or worse. Hopefully I can then see where the shortcomings are coming from.
Ucsb21: You said "The major issue I have with some of my albums is that the mids and highs appear to be hidden behind the music. The crash of cymbals, the snap of the snare, vocals etc. sound muted or veiled. If I adjust the treble and turn the volume up it makes it a little better but, not always."
While the sources you mentioned may very well be the bulk of the problem (seeing as how some are worse than others and some are fine). That being said - you can do a couple of things to make the best of it - particularly if you like the music that happens to be prolematic and want to listen to the music. One, which I state only for your consideration, is acoustic room changes. As you are finding muffled highs and mids rather than harsh highs and mids - you may want to make the environment a little less absorbing and more reflective - I have never tried that, never having had that problem, but it is worth a shot.
On another note (pun intended), while I am not a big one for amps making a huge difference, I will say that listening to Rotel amps I too heard precisely what you described. A/B'ing a Rotel vs a Bryston, there was a world of difference. At higher volumes the Rotel did fine and was very good at controlling the bass, but at lower volumes there was just the effect you found. While I do not own a Bryston - that may be something for you to consider. The 100 SST did a very nice job of driving Dali Mk II 400's - it is a 100 watt integrated and I think not priced too high. The 4bSST amplifier also did a very nice job - a little more expensive but a lot more power and a very well respected amplifier. I tend to agree with your plan - I think you will find that replacing the amp even if you have to use the Rotel as a preamp may be an economical good interim solution. It could not hurt anything to demo the Bryston units - and do so with the problem recordings as well as the ones that sound fine.
'I guess my fundamental question is whether some albums will sound bad no matter what kind of system (regardless of price) it is played on. From the responses I've seen on other threads and also from messages I have received it looks like the answer would be a yes'.
I tend to blame a system rather than any cd/album. Whats the point in spending XXXXX of $$$$'s if music is unlistenable?
Its like having a Ferrari with one flat tyre, beautiful car but about as much use as a chocolate tea-pot.