Something is amiss

Hi guys,

Recently started getting back into audio after a 2-3 year hiatus (had to sell all my gear due to a financial crisis situation).

Picked up a modded Sugden A48B, which I have connected to an old pair of NHT 1.5's on a pair of cheap-o target stands. Using an Energy ESW-V8 sub to fill in the bottom. Source is an old Rotel RCD 971. Interconnects are MIT (old, not sure which model anymore). Speaker cables are a choice amongst Ecosse, Audioquest type 4 and cheapo monster 12guage.

Now, being familiar w/ the NHT line, i know the characteristics of the 1.5. In a nutshell: top end can be gritty/ harsh, midrange a little thin, recessed and not the most transparent, bottom end tight and tuneful down to about 60 hz or so, with a very steep drop off thereafter. They usually have very good focus and near pin point accuracy.

The room is small - approx 9 x 14 - small condo, kitchen area open to the living area, so left speaker is in an 'open area' (ie. no wall to its left).

The room's acoustics are very tough to deal with. There is a small wall unit housing a 27 inch tv in between the speakers, which i realize is not optimal. Carpet is moderately heavy, which can really dampen the sound. The room overall is not very reflective.

The sound w/ this setup is lacklustre. It is not particularly clear, does not have good focus, the top end, although does not extend into the highest of frequencies has a harshness to it that is irritating (Especially to my gf) and does NOT assist in making the audio picture 'clearer'. The midrange is veiled and vocals seem lost in the distance, to a degree.

Now, i understand the room is very poor acoustically; I used to own a unison unico w/ neat mystique speakers along w/ the rotel cd player coupled w/ an msb link dac III half nelson w/ upsampling and even THAT system sounded muddy in my room, whereas in a different room at my previous residence, it sounded wonderful. There is very little i can do about the room at this point, though, as i am only a condo renter and not the condo's owner.

Can anyone offer any ideas as to what i could do to improve the sound? I still don't have a lot of funds at this time, so cheapie solutions would be appreciated.

My thoughts:

Perhaps sugden A48b integrated is not powerful enough (although i really have no clue what its power rating actually is)'s a model from the early 90's which was pretty heavily modded.

Perhaps the cables are not good matches... the Ecosse are the most gritty sounding/ harsh sounding, Audioquest sound blah and the monster, believe it or not, is the 'best' sounding of the bunch.

Perhaps it's just that i've grown away (and up) from the Nht 1.5's and require a more refined, more open speaker.

I'm soooo confused, so i'm turning to you audiogoners for opinions/ suggestions, as my bank account will not allow me to make any really stupid purchase mistakes.

Thanks in advance!
I would first play w/the distance/spread & toe-in of the spks. to your listening spot. (I have a very difficult room as well and I have my TV between my spks.) I can understand why you prefer the Monster spk. cables. What kind of power cords are you using? If they are the ones supplied by the manufacturer, upgrade these w/some Carol 14/3 or 12/3 and Marinco/Wattgate IEC and AC plug. $35 Aprx. I'm not familiar w/ MIT IC's. Perhaps these need to be changed out? I have a feeling you may need to look for a different set of spks. (Tannoy Fusion 1 are exc., affordable small bookshelf spks.)
yes, i'm really starting to believe I should switch up the speakers.

Once upon a time, i was looking into a pair of EPos M12.2 (but i ended up w/ Neat Mystiques at the time). I really liked the 12.2's, though - thought they were very open sounding w/ excellent midrange and fast, punchy bass.

Any thoughts from anyone if the Epos would work well w/ the sugden in this setup?

Or perhaps a pair of Quad 12l?

Totem? Maybe the arro or staff?

I used to own a pair of StudioLab reference 1's right before the Neats, and maybe they would have been good, but i can't afford them new and they never come up used. Perhaps the Arro has a similar sound...

Wish I could just go out and buy ten different pairs of speakers to compare all at once, but alas - i'm just a working stiff.
can anyone else chime in?

btw - Kotta - No, i use the stock power cords that came w/ all units.

I have a few pc power cords at home - maybe i'll swap them for kicks, as i alluded to in a different thread.
The room is the main issue and the only way to take it out of the equation is to listen in the near field.
my room is so small that I have no choice but to listen in the nearfield. Nearfield listening is not the answer, unfortunately. I may flip the room around so that the system is on an outer wall instead of on the dividing wall (although the room will look kind of strange in that setup)
You might want to look up "near field" to make sure we are talking about the same thing.

Proper near field setup almost completely eliminates room effects.
No, i believe the meaning of nearfield listening is to have speaker arrangement in such a fashion that room boundaries do not affect the sound (or to a minimal degree).

I've experimented w/ pulling the speakers right out from the wall - in fact, nearly midway into the room (speakers were about 4' from the rear wall - and the distance from wall to wall in that plane is only 9').

If this is not what is meant by nearfield, apologies for the confusion.

Still, even in this arrangement, the sound is as stated earlier; it's edgy, yet still lacking in midrange presence, detail and openness.
Well, I flipped my listening room around by transposing the audio system and the couch. This has places the system on the apartment's outer wall rather than on a dividing wall.

The sound has improved dramatically, partially because the left speaker now has a back and side wall to support it (as opposed to neither). Further, the outer wall is cement vs. the dividing wall being cheap, thin drywall, so I believe this reinforces the sound as well.

I'm still not loving the speakers all that much, though.... Since I've owned much better, it's difficult to take steps backward.

Short list of speakers to audition in my hopes to open up the midrange... If anyone knows how any of these speakers interact w/ my Sugden A48b, please feel free to comment.

Any speaker

Short list:

Totem Arro
Totem Staff
Totem Hawks
StudioLab Reference 1
Epos M12.2 (NOT M12i)
Epos M15.2
Audio Physic Yara II classic
GMA Europa
Quad 12L

Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks guys!
If your MIT cables are old Terminator 2 or MIT-330, their internal networks do contribute to a muffled sound quality.
I guess MIT voiced Terminator 2 and 330 ICs to match entry-level systems.
MIT's more expensive cables do sound more transparent.
Within your budget, you may want to try Kimber 8TC for the speakers (always a good choice) and Tara Labs or Harmonic Technolgy ICs.
I hope this helps