Reference 3A Decapo "i" sounds shrilly

I just bought a Reference 3a Decapo "i" version pair of speakers mounted on sound anchors speaker stands. I'm using a Antique sound lab ki22 fox dt integrated, Cary 306 cdp, siltech interconnects and Harmonic Tech pro speaker cables. The sound is shrill to the point of listener fatique and dissapointment. Is it my cables, the amp/speaker combo, the speakers? I'm confused and frustrated. Any suggestion?
If your equipment (and it's very good equipment) is working OK, and the sound is identical on both channels, and there are no other sonic issues (like noise, hum, RF interference), and not internal settings on the CDP or amp, then I would check for an impedance mismatch between the CDP and the Antique.

Try another source like an FM tuner or another CDP. Also, try another set of ICs (probably not the problem but don't just assume because of their great reputation, that the Siltechs are correct for this application.

Usually in these cases, it's the CDP output characteristics that are causing the problem, especially if it's equal on both channels. You might want to shoot an email to Cary.

Did you previously have the same electronics, but a different pair of speakers, or is all of the equipment new to you?

I own the Reference 3A MM DeCapo (non-i version) and it is definately not shrill. I've owned speakers that were very hot on the top end in my same room, so I know my speakers are relatively soft on the top end. Unfortunately, I've never heard the "i" version which has a different tweeter, so I can't say for sure if this trait is typical with your speakers.

One thing to try is room positioning. The DeCapos are mirrored pairs. You might want to try them in the opposite position, i.e. swap the left and right speaker so the tweeters are on the outside or inside.

Good luck. Hopefully the DeCapos will work out for you. They can be a very good speaker in the right setup.

Oh, and are they new or used? They may need some break-in to smooth out.

I`d change the spkrs. YMMV.
Harkey - this is an easy problem to fix as your components are all well known and very good quality. I'm not sure which Siltech i/c you have, but unless it is a model with significant gold content, go with a copper interconnect with the Cary 306 and you will get rid of the HF shrillness - something like XLO Signature 2's should do the job quite nicely, but you could even go cheap with something like Kimber Heros and do well. You might want to look into something like a Furutech E-TP80 for your power as well, which will also give you some relief from HF listener fatigue. It's NOT your equipment... John
The problem is the speaker/room interaction, as is 95% of all problems that people experience with audio.

Do you have acoustic treatment on your front and rear walls?

Have you treated the reflection points on the side walls?

Have you experimented with speaker positioning, making sure to have ample space from all walls?

If the answer to all of these questions is *yes,* than you have purchased a pair of shrill-sounding speakers. (I have nothing to contribute here, as I haven't heard them)
I agree with Goatwuss, it is almost certainly a speaker/room problem. A friend has the same speakers and amp as you and it is a superb combination - absolutely no brightness. What is your room like, how far are the speakers from the various room boundaries (walls) and where do you sit realitive to the speakers and back wall?
A somewhat forward, perhaps "shouty" midrange is a common criticism of the the decapo i, which I used to own. You should be able to tame it with various approaches mentioned here. One other to try would be speaker height. How high are your stands? Try putting some books or something under them and see what that does. Lowering them is more difficult to do, obviously, butg might be worth making some effort. And toe-in of course.
Maybe they need more power or current than your amp can deliver.
>Maybe they need more power or current than your amp can deliver.<

Not likely, since they were designed around SETs. I sincerely doubt that is the problem.

BTW, I am pretty familiar with this speaker. It does have a foreward sounding midrange. That is just the way it sounds, good or bad. Maybe that's what he is hearing and is sensitive to it.

This is what I love about this website.
Thank you all for your responses. I don't get the same shrilliness from my tuner(magnum dynalab etude) or when the system is hooked up to my cable box. I believe the problem is the cd-amp interface and perhaps the siltech is too silver.What do you think about the cardas golden reference? My stands are 26 inches high and about three feet from the back wall. The speakers are abut 8 feet apart and the listening position is about 8 feet from center. I'm getting ready to move so my listening room is emptier than usual. I will leave the room treatment for my new digs.
Not likely, since they were designed around SETs. I sincerely doubt that is the problem.

Now we know why they sound bad.
Good Day: I have a pair of these speeks as well. I found them bright as well. To tweek this I did a few things, firstly I had installed a pair of resisters onto the tweeter. I can't remember the value of them but you can contact the manufacturer and they will be glad to help as they did for me. The other thing I did was change my speaker cable to Cardas Golden reference bi wire. This helped as well, perhaps the previous cable was on the bright side. This is one of the downfalls with switching speakers because you end up changing things to compensate for them. Be patient these speakers are fabulous! you just have to tweak your set up. Let me know how you make out.

Mike Fraser
p.s. they may take up to 300 hours to break them in. Once broken in they will sound better.
Acoustics in the Room.... Bottom line I have had shrilly sound and very thin sound, make sure you have a full wall behind the listening position and the Speakers, Sidwalls are not that important, actually the further away the better getting rid of direct reflection and adding body to the sound on the outside of the speaker as well as between them, I recommend no closer than 2 feet to sidewalls if at all possible. Your room if in the wrong configuration or even not very well acoustically treated( via, carpet, wood(not too much glass and windows) etc.) then you will never get best results, many have complained of this problem with a Monitor of any sort between your speakers as well due to the reflections off it, so big screens can be a deterent as well.

I have moved shrilly speakers into other rooms onto full walls with nothing deflecting sound down the side walls and they sounded almost like the tweeter and upper midrange were cut out! So its simply possible you just have a bad environment. I would not be so quick to dump cables or electronics in or out of the mix, you seem to have pretty well regarded to the slight side of warm equipment(accept maybe the siltech stuff). Good luck, but move them first it works substantially if you find where they need to be placement wise in the first place.
I have the "i" version of these speakers with a Cayin A88-T integrated . They definetly are not bright !
I am using Z Squared au/au Top I/c's on a Granite 657 CDP .
I lost a little bit of sparkle on the top end as compared to my Soliloquy's , when I switched. I am not sure if that sparkle is attributed to a coloration by the Sol's or what . I only have @135 hrs. on them and I really like the sound .
I am using some 8th Nerve room treatments in a small , 10 X 10 , room .
FWIW , I don't think that it is your speakers either .
Good luck .
The sound is shrill to the point of listener fatique and dissapointment. Is it my cables, the amp/speaker combo, the speakers? I'm confused and frustrated. Any suggestion?

I sold mine and bought a pair of Melin TSM-MX. No more fatique and much better mids.
My 2$
I heard the DeCapo I at a dealer, using a tube amplifier which was unknown to me. I found the speaker to have a bass response which was surprising to me for its size, a seductive (although I am not sure how smooth it was) midrange and highs which I felt ranged towards the soft and lush rather than brilliant and shrill. I would suggest swapping out the Siltech cable temporarily, as silver cable tends to be bright. You could try a very inexpensive cable such as Kimber PBJ between CD player and amp. I find that the connection between CD and preamp usually doesn't require an ultimate megabuck interconnect anyway. If you don't get any improvement, consider a temporary change in speaker cable A good choice for speaker cable is Kimber 4TC. Borrow these, if possible or buy (and possibly resell) at a good price so you don't lose money if you have to resell. Whether these cables will match your system perfectly, I can't tell you, but if the problem is your current cables, this test should tell you.

I somewhat agree with those who suggest you look at placement and room issues. This could be a problem, but as you describe the problem as something which seems quite severe, I am tending to look elsewhere. I agree with making sure that the speakers are not pointing at you, but at (imaginary) persons sitting on either side of you. As reported earlier, if the toe-in of the speakers is not correct, this is one way in which you can get the results which you are currently experiencing.
Hi Hark.

I've not read all the responses here so I don't know what's been suggested. If I repeat something someone's already posted, I trust it's a confirmation.

The DeCapo i is a great little speaker. We have a pair here that we use on occasion when the Sasons aren't in the music room.

Your gear is not the problem and silver based cabling, in and of itself, is not the problem.

The Decapo i is a "Constant Power/All Pass" wide dispersion design because of it's minimalist crossover and chosen drivers. As a result, it can excite room boundaries much easier if the room isn't treated and/or if the speakers/listening chair are not positioned in the room correctly. This, as I'm guessing you already know, is not a trivial matter! When you get into your new digs, take good care of the room first(!) with these speakers. Otherwise, I, and I bet Diverse Tech. can promise you'll never fully be able to realize the performance of the Decapos. It would be a shame to not give these speakers what they deserve for good set up and then blame the speakers for less than stellar performance.

As to the concern of the Siltechs being part of the culprit, maybe but like I said, silver in and of itself is not a bad system partnering with these speakers. Not only is our entire system latched up with silver, I've also modified our Decapo i with a custom silver wire harness and replaced the stock PO cap with Mundorf's silver and oil 1200v cap. The result is a more transparent high end and the entire presentation is just more effortless and rhythmic. Nothing bright or hard at all as some might assume with this much silver.

As for room set up, we finally settled on about 9.5ft from the back wall, Just shy of 3ft from the side walls. The speakers are a little over 6.5ft apart on tweeter centers and the listening position is about 7ft from the speakers. If anything in the system, including the room interaction, was going to be off-putting, it would show up in such a near field arrangement. As it is, the speakers disappear creating the illusion of the venue in the whole back part of the room. So, this is some of what's possible.

Hope this helps point a bit. I realize it may be a while but please report back when you get in your new place and everything set up good Okay?


Oh, BTW, these speakers need to fire almost straight ahead - maybe just a very slight toe in. The manufacture strongly recommends no toe in and the tweeters to the outside of the cabinets. For a lot of reasons, their recommendation is pretty spot on. If you have their manual, follow it and dial in from their starting point. If you don't have their manual, get a hold of Divergent and they should supply you with one.


Robert ; How do the Sason's compare with the 'stock' De Capo i's ? How are they at low listening levels ?
Thanks .

The Sason is in a whole other league across the board. It had better be at over four times the price of the Decapo i. Still, the Decapo is a great little speaker at it's price point and above. Though not perfect, it's a great communicator.

I assume you're asking about the Sason at low listening levels. For a lot of reasons, this is an area that we think should be an acid test for any speaker. As one of many design goals, this is another area we feel the Sason sets a standard.


I have a pair of 3a i's and they are not shrilly at all.
It's funny I had the exact opposite experience than Bryanp
I had the Merlin TSM-Se's, While I loved many aspects of the Merlin sound, I found these fatiquing after while (perhaps the Mx is different). I bought
the De Capos's i's as I found these much more uniform and tame.

I have driven each with both solid state (McCormack) and Tubes (Cary mono's). The tubes and De Capo's are a very wonderful seductive combination, (tho a little flabby in the bass), but I that is not unexpected given my tube amps.

Good luck,