Sound is too thin. What to upgrade, add or remove?

Need your advise - please have a look at my system below (click on the system link). Just in the past couple of months or so it seems, my setup started to sound way too thin in my ears. It feels as though the bottom-end is just not enough anymore. But I as you can see from the pictures, I try to stay on the minimulist side of things. The aesthetics are very important as well (WAF). I can't really have too much exposed gear (WAF). What can I do to boost the overall sonics of this system without adding a sub? How much more can a power conditioner add? What about replacing the power tubes, IC's and adding a DAC? or should I switch to a different amp - like a Gamut (SS) 200/wcp? What other push-pull (100 wpc or more) quality tube amps are out there? My budget is $2K - $3K plus the value of current amp if I were to swap it out.

I really appreciate your comments. Thank you.

Your system has some of the best components out their. You do not need to replace anything. You need to work on speaker placement. It appears from the picture that your speakers are way too far apart. I had Kharma CE 2.0's and they need to be about 84" from woofer center to woofer center. They should not be toed-in. They should be straight. They must also be moved farther from the rear wall, at least 24 inches, although more would be better. These are great speakers; but placement is critical. This is a good starting point. You will be amazed at the difference.
Speaker placement is critical. It makes no sense to start replacing equipment until the speakers are in the right place. Cosmetically they may be well placed, but sonically they are in Audio Hell!

Placement for my Kharma's was very important. I played around for a long time before settling for the position they currently occupy.

Get those speakers out where they were designed to be placed. You might not need to do anything else once that's done.
What I see is a very hard, reflective room with very little in the way of absorbent materials. So you probably have lots of bass but too much of everything else for proper balance.

I would suggest putting in wide-range absorbent panels and/or traps. The former is probably less conspicuous and, perhaps, you can put some on the ceiling in between the beams. That would seem quite unobtrusive. One or two diffusive panels on the wall behind the speakers would also help.

Kal (in the throes of the same issue)
Hi, Try some different power cords. I thought the Absolute cords were a little thin sounding. Good luck.
Kal & Robm are spot on. Your room looks like a poster child for rooom treatments. Some of these can have a high WAF (I actually prefer PAF - partner acceptance factor). For example, I just got some nice thick curtains for my room to cover the windows -- big difference! Some acoustic treatments hidden by tapestries can work well in other parts of the room. There are a lot of great threads and readings on room treatments and that's where I would start.
Zcable Heavy Thunder power cords and good component isolation might provide some more weight with your setup as it sits.
Owning 1.0 Kharmas myself and all the juggling I have done,I must agree with the suggestions already mentioned.Kharmas need room to breath! You have the room ,you just need to bring them out into the room and also your equipment furniture is cramping the speakers from the inside center section also.Bring the speakers out and leave the equipment cabinet up against the wall and create some room . I have my Kharmas spread apart about the same as mentioned. About 75" woofer to woofer center.About the same as mention.Try to create a listening triangle if you can and keep the dimensions as close to the same as possible. If you move your speakers 6 feet apart, try putting you listening chair about the same distance away ( just for starters ) and adjust as needed. You may need to bring in some softer material ,rug,curtains etc, but try the positioning first.....Goog Luck
I agree with some of the responses above that you might want to try to fix the "basics" 1st before spending big $$$ on component upgrades. I will also start with simple tweaks (if you have not done this already) for eg: clean all cable contacts with a good contact cleaner (Caig ProGold and DeOxit or Kontak) and then enhance it with Walker SST. My experience is after doing this, it is equal to a component upgrade. The music just opens up and became fuller minus the glare associated with digital playback. For approx. $100 it was money very well spend IMO.
Good luck.
Ipy, what is Walker SST? Thanks
I agree, it looks like some room treatments would benefit you, as without them you are not hearing your rig's full potential. With parallel surfaces you have issues with phase cancellations and standing waves; corners are breeding grounds for bass buildup. Some absorptive material and bass trapping will give you more flexibility in speaker placement, cculd help with the WAF. Especially with your budget, you could look into some treatment solutions that are functional but aesthetically pleasing--WAF.

Have you experimented with differnt types of isolation platforms for your components?

Nice system BTW!
I agree with everything above with one thing to add. Get your preamp off your cd player!! You have a potentially microphonic preamp with exposed tubes and handling low level signals and you have it sitting on a component that has moving parts and thus vibrates and also outputs digital hash and noise. I think you'll see an immdediate improvement by getting a real rack to keep your components seperate and isolated and also take care of speaker placement. Good luck you have great stuff, let it sing!
Thanks everyone, thanks for the suggestions. I will try n work with speaker-placement first before going further; however, there is limited scope of moving the speakers closer together unless I move them forward enough to clear the credenza and then partially put them in front of the credenza; this could potentially have a PAF (see Ozfly’s note for explanation) factor. I will see what is workable on this front. The speakers are not toed in as per Kharma's manual, and if I recall correctly, they’re about 7-ft & change apart (woofer-to-woofer) now. According to the manual the speakers should have a clearance of 4-ft to the back wall – I think I have a little over half of that. The ceiling height 10.5-ft could be another issue, not to mention the bowling alley like floors (actually bamboo). The wall on the opposite side of room (opposite from stereo) is also far away, say about 22-ft. So yes, I agree with you all, the “room conditioning” is the weakest link in this setup. The problem however is, the room has to double as our living room and therefore, audiophile type commercial grade conditioning panels may not work for this application. I have to resort something a bit more clever - for now cork based modern art comes to mind :-) No really, you've given me plenty to keep myself away from bars for days. Thanks again.
I agree with the suggestions regarding room treatment. The actual sound coming from your speakers may not be as thin as you think.

The large, hard, flat reflective surfaces could be creating peaks along certain lower treble and upper midrange frequencies that might give the illusion of an overall lean sound. Covering these areas especially the first reflection points with tapestries or unobtrusive drapes may help.

Your hard wood floors aren't helping either. But they're beautiful, and I think covering them up would be defeating the purpose of having them in the first place.

Being that your speakers are so close to the back walls there should be sufficient bass loading although as some Kharma owners have pointed out this may not be the best for them because transparency and imaging might be compromised. I think you'll have a better idea of what needs to be fixed once you bring the speakers forward and treat the side walls.

Also, Jond's suggestion of getting the preamp off the CD player is a good one. 6SN7 tubes are very susceptible to microphonics and can pass on any mechanical vibrations they're exposed to in the form of distorted music. Sometimes when one of mine are going bad I can here a ringing transmitted from the thump of my volume knob hitting the end detent that makes its way from my speakers as a "ping".

I wouldn't blame the Ken-Rad Black Glass VT-231s either. They have a reputation for a big, full, slightly dark sound. I use them as well.

I wasn't very impressed with the Absolute Power Cords myself. I felt they weren't much different from the stock ones they replaced. Your system definitely deserves better, and there are some out there that can help produce a fuller sound. I just built one of Chris Ven Haus' DIY cords over the Labor Day Weekend and will be experimenting with it once it's broken in.

You have a VERY nice system and room. I hope you can solve your problem to your satisfaction.
Cork is pretty useless but professional absorbtion/diffusion panels can be covered (disguised) with almost any open-weave cloth which, otherwise, passes the PAF.

IMHO, none of the other tweaks is worth spit (to quote a more public speaker) in this context without some room treatement.


Your room is definitely too nice to place Sonex panels on the walls. Cork art would be much better! Heheh.

Hi Jewel
You have a wonderful system, and a beautiful apartment, and unfortunately the two don't usually work together. I have Kharma's in a dedicated listening room, and not until I really started to treat the room did they reach their potential. I don't think that you want to start putting panels all over your living room.
I agree with other suggestions that pulling the speakers out a bit might help the frequency balance. You might want to try some isolation devices that have more of a softening/ damping effect - like vibrapods. The other thing is some tube rolling - maybe some warm Telefunkens might help. And lastly, I would lose the PS Audio outlet. That might be thinning things out.
Good Luck
Given the WAF issues regarding speaker placement and room treatments, this is what you really need.
a quick update: just got home from work and checked the distance between the speakers (woofer-to-woofer). I was way off, it is close to 10-feet - way too much i think. Here are the corrective actions I've taken thus far: I pulled the speakers out so they sit 4-ft away from back wall; narrowed the in-betweend distance to 8-ft so they overlap the credenza slightly; moved the rug around, it is now sitting a 1.5 ft in front of both speakers. I hear some changes but let me continue listening for a while and try out different recordings. Will update shorty.

Again, thanks a bunch...
I think you need atleast 4 ft from backwall and atleast 4 ft from the drawer thing in the middle. These are probably mentioned but just wanted to repeat for the sake of being repetitive.

I definitely agree with moving the preamp off the cd player too. Also, check all your wires, chords and interconnects. make sure the digital wires, analog cables, and powercords are not running parallel against each other.
There are some room treatments available that look nice. Room treatment is a huge step up in a room like that. Even just a couple of panels and maybe two bass traps if possible. At minimum you should research room acoustics. Go to the room simulator at the Rives Audio site. You can put in the dimensions of your room and it'll give you a rough idea where the least amount of room modes will affect your system regarding speaker placement/seating position.
Since you only have digital source, if all else failed, why not try one of the room correction system like the Tact 2.2.
Working with what you've got, I suggest you try these two at a time.
Try toeing-in the speakers a bit at a time from the listening position that you are now using.
If you don't have one, get a laser level from Costo ($18) and that will let you get the two speakers toed exactly the same. IMHO, the "site-picture" of the side of your right speaker really needs to be adjusted IN some, and be sure to make the left, the same.
Secondly, after you find some improvement with that, move your body forward (then back), a bit at a time, from your current listening position. Notice what happens to the soundstage. (Be sure to keep your head at the same height)
Two Bonus trials!
3rdly, from an agreed fixed position (do this one before or after the first two steps)....change the elevation of your head....up and down from your seating position.
And last, walk around the room (slightly bent over so that your head/ears is at the same height as while seated, and notice if there is a difference in the bottom end. (I'm assuming you've got something playing! :-) ...and it has good bass, or use a test-tone CD. You'll probably hear more difference closer to the walls. (the bass should tighten up)
Your seating position also could be at a "null" position in the room.
If you notice a drastic difference on doing this walk-around, you might consider setting up your room layout differently. That might do it if you can get by with the WAF. Otherwise, you'll probably need to (1) EQ the room and lastly do room treatments.
Hope that helps!
Good listening!
You mentioned that your system sounds thin in the last months. Your virtual system is dated 06-04. So comes to mind having a little evolution /time / history of your rig.
Have you made any changes to the system in this time span?
Added new furniture?
How sturdy is that nice credenza? Would you rate it as "ringing" using the knuckle test?
Wood is a very interesting material that depending on construction might change properties with weather i.e. wood is affected with humidity and temperature....How long have you had your system placed on this nice furniture piece?
How about power related factors? It´s hot now and A/C use goes up in the summer right? A little food for thought from "out of the box"
Any luck with different supports under your components?
Your comments please
ok folks - the sound did improve but not by huge margins. The imaging was certainly more defined, and the overall sound felt less chocked. BTW, I also liked this somewhat more near-field listening position as the speakers were now pulled forward by 2-feet. Unfortunately I ran out of testing and listening time, we had guests over!! I will continue to refine this setup based on all your suggestions. I'll separate the preamp, remove the PS outlets etc. I may also put a layer of padding under the rug.

Sol322, to anwer your questions -- i've had this setup for well over a year; and no, i did not add and/or remove any furniture etc. what i think has been happening is, i've started to go to more live acts in smaller settings lately.

I just wanted say, I'm quite moved by show-of-force - thanks :-)
I think the speakers might still be too far apart. I'm not sure how if bringing them together more will affect the sound though.

Good luck
Very nice set up !. I love the Supratek Pre -
You have a lot of great suggestions so far – here are mine
Get your wife to listen to the changes as the sound improves – let her hear the before and after. It was surprising to see how much more interested my wife became after getting involved in the process - she also became more open to changes I wanted to make.
Continue to work with the speaker placement and some low cost room treatments first.
Definitely get the main components separated and on their own platforms. Zoethecus make a great piece for their stands called a “Z-slab”. You can find them used on Audiogon for around $ 100.00 - $ 125.00. They should make huge difference when put under your CD player and Supratek. Get one and move it around under different components and see what results you get. If you are not happy, you can easily re-sell the Z-slab and get all of you money back out.
Put Symposium Rollerblocks (or other coupling devices, but Rollerblocks are far and away my favorite) between the platform and the component. This will be another significant improvement.
Power Cord - BMI Sharks can be picked up on Audiogon for $ 200.00 - $ 250.00 (there is a 5 footer up for sale right now for $ 235.00 OBO). Get one and try it first on the Amp and then on your CD player - If it gives you the results I think it will yield, you can buy more and improve the sound further. This cable can really punch up the bass and give you more detail without glare or brightness. This is a great power cord for the money. I went through 6 or more and the BMI Shark and it descendants were the best sounding by farm. Two years ago they were selling for $ 800 – 1,200.00 (new). Great Value !
Consider getting a used line conditioner , Hydra or BMI – IPLC and replace your outlets with Albert Porter’s Cryoed receptacles or other high quality Cryoed outlet. Dedicated lines would be great but a good bit more costly.
Feel free to email me directly and I can explain a bit more in detail
Very smart Larry!

A very sneaky and elegant way to get the little lady to "see" why you're always upgrading and why we love audio in the first place.

Now if any wives or girlfriends read this, they'll to try get us to try on a few designer dresses the next time we go shopping with them.
All the suggestions re room treatments are right on. And I agree with Cello re Symposium's Rollerblocks. Isolate your components and try out some Svelte Shelves or, better, some Ultra platforms under your source and preamp. Using Svelte Shelves will allow you to keep your very attractive credenza. Very intriguing setup. Enjoy!
Good comments from Islandear, but I would recommend the Zoethecus Z-slab over either the Symposium Svelte shelves or the Symposium Ultra shelf.
I have had all three ofthose shelves plus the Rosinante Dark Shelf, Black Diamond Racing Shelf and Silent Running Audio's custom built stands.
The Silent Running stand was clearly in first place (but costs around ( $ 600.00 - $ 800.00 new), the Zoethecus Z-slab came in second, then Rosinante, then the Symposium Ultra, followed by the Svelte Shelves and in last place the Black Diamond Racing platform. An audiophile friend and I did some blind A/B comparisons using several types of music and the results were clear, repetitive and unanimous between us.
While the Symposium Roller Block system (get the Grade 2 Tungsten Carbide balls) is an amazing product ( I compared it to Walker Valid Points, Black Diamond Racing Cones and a few other similar products and the Roller Blocks are by far the best of what I have tried), their Shelves, while quite good and better than no shelf, don’t produce the same stellar results.
Great Power Cords, Shelves, and Coupling devices when well matched to you system, do absolute wonders for the sound -It is very much equal to a major component upgrade.
I am looking forward to hear how your journey progresses. Do keep us all updated with your trials and results.
Cello: Happy to see you coming to rescue outside the Supratek thread :-) I have already started scanning a’gon for a hydra-4 plus some replacement PCs. Will keep everyone posted.

Nrchy: I looked at yours as well as a few other Kharma based systems. I feel you may be right about the in-between distance. I guess I’ll do the best I can for now. Nrchy guest what we have another things in common, I too am motorcyclist – 1997 BMW R850R tour bike:-)

Just wanted to mention that I live in a NYC (pre WW-II) building which means, below my sub floors there is a concrete floor that's at least 8" to10" thick. It is quite solid and stable, no bouncing floors here like you might see in a traditional wood-frame structure. The credenza I use (blue thing between the speakers) instead of a component rack is a very sturdy Italian made unit, it is not a rickety Ikea thingy as it might appear in pictures, therefore, as far as any structural vibrations are concerned, my would say it is minimal. However, I started my search for a Hydra-4 conditioner, a few Symposium shelves and a couple of replacement PCs. I’m also thinking of swapping out the Valve-Art KT88 with some ballsy Svetlana KT88. Will keep you posted. Thanks everyone.