Speakers or Amplifier


Thinking about another upgrade and looking for opinions on if I should upgrade my speakers or amplifier. My current system: Aerial 7T speakers, Jeff Rowland M525, Bricasti M1 DAC connected straight into the M525, and all WireWorld Silver inter-connect, power, and speaker cables. My room is 20' x 26' and treated with GIK acoustics. I listen to contemporary Jazz. My budget is 10K.
ricred1
What is your goal? What do you hope to accomplish by changing equipment?
I recently added the Bricasti M1 DAC. The M1 improved bass output, dynamics, and soundstaging. I still believe I can improve the bass output, but would like opinions on the most feasible way forward. In general I don't like subs. In addition, I don't have a preamp.
You have a large room and a relatively inefficient loudspeakers. Your power amp is a good choice for addressing the issue, but it can only go so far. Before replacing any components I would suggest trying different loudspeaker/listener positions to better couple the loudspeakers to the room. Start with all the acoustic panels removed.
I like all your stuff....what is it that you don't like?
Stringreen,

I would love to have more bass...not just feel it, but hear it. I currently have them 48" from the front wall. I love the openness, imaging, soundstaging(depth and width), mids and highs are wonderful. I'm hesitant to move them closer to the front wall, because I don't want to sacrifice everything else. Any suggestions are appreciated.
Why not go with a set of subwoofers? SVS, JL, Martin Logan ... just to name a few have excellent products. Make sure that it's a sealed unit with adequate power. Subs have come a long way and may really improve even a very nice system such as yours.
Just a thought, but why not try different speaker cables. I am not discounting yours, but sometimes a different cable cab make a big difference in sound presentation. Try the lending library at the Cable Company, provided that 8 feet will work for you. I think all their speaker cables are about 8 feet in length.
Again just a thought.
Brauser,
In general I don't like subwoofers, but I did send an email to Bricasti to find out if I could connect a JL F112 subwoofer through my M1 DAC.

Theo,
I've tried several speaker cables(Transparent, Cardas, Shunyata)and thought the WireWorld Silver 7 was the most balanced.
Not familiar with your wires either, but as interconnects and cables can make a significant contribution to what level of tonal color is revealed I'd probably start there too. I'd demo a full loom Acoustic Zen as I know them to be very organic sounding without sacrificing things like detail and soundstaging that seem to be important to you. If that doesn't work I might try to audition a good preamp. Not sure how the Bricasti does as a pre, but some systems seem to benefit significantly by using a standalone preamplifier. If you're not tube averse maybe a VAC or ARC pre, and solid state maybe Pass Labs, Boulder, Vitus, Sim Audio. Hope this helps, and best of luck.
Richard, as I recall from one of your other threads not long ago you achieved a substantial improvement in bass performance via some revisions to how your bass traps are arranged. And you apparently achieved further improvement in bass performance by going to the M1 DAC.

My suggestion at this point is that you read through the lengthy ongoing thread Is DEQX A Game Changer?, and consider adding both a DEQX and one or preferably two subwoofers to your system.

As you'll see in that thread, several experienced members here have reported DEQX to be transformational in their already very high quality systems. They have reported it to be totally transparent apart from room and speaker corrections that are intentionally introduced, even when its internal A/D and D/A converters are in the signal path. (You would presumably use it entirely in the digital domain, aside from analog outputs it would provide to the sub or subs). Also see the review by Kal Rubinson (A'gon member Kr4) of one of the DEQX models, which recently appeared in Stereophile.

Also take a look at the DEQX site, including the section of their FAQ about subwoofer integration, which DEQX processing facilitates and optimizes.

Personally, I'm planning to purchase their latest flagship model HDP-5 as soon as its forthcoming production run arrives in the USA, which is expected to be in May.

Depending on your choice of DEQX model, subwoofer model, and the number of subs, the total cost of all of those things would come in either right around your stated budget, or for not a great deal more (although I recognize that under this approach you would not be selling anything to offset part of that cost). I'd be surprised if an amplifier change would accomplish anywhere near as much. And I'd be surprised if a $10K investment in new speakers would give you the bass improvement you seek without a significant risk being incurred of compromises to the qualities of your present speakers that you are happy with.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al
I concur with Theo in that you will want to try different cables. I reviewed a fair number of Wireworld products for Dagogo.com, and I still endorse them as very fine cables. However, there are other cables which confer a deeper, more present bass response, among them Clarity Cable and Silnote Cable, both reviewed.

The Ariel 7t is a fine speaker and will give you clean bass. If you want to stay in that league of performance and step significantly lower in bass output, you might have to part with a fair bit more than $10K. :( It's not unusual to have speakers with bass specs at about 22dB and in that zone of quality to cost upwards of $30K. Your best bet may be to add subs.

Subwoofers are a legitimate boon to an already capable speaker system, and if you can't get enough LF currently they are a fine way to supplement the system. If you do so, I strongly recommend you do stereo subs, not just one. The qualitative difference in experience with twin subs is easily heard. You seem to have the space to do so.

You could dip your feet into a few different cables or power cords. I do not see aftermarket power cords in your system listing, and I didn't read all the posts to your system, so I don't know if you already have taken action on it. But, if you haven't yet gone to replace the stock power cords, you have a lot of sound to discover. I recommend you get some heftier gauge copper power cords to ameliorate the thinness of the bass/LF. You'll still have money left over for subs. You can not only take a small step, you can completely revamp your rig if you do it right. Feel free to also see my review of the Legacy Audio XTREME HD subs at Dagogo.com
What is it that has you so put off by subs? True, they are challenging to integrate perfectly seamlessly, but when done well, they offer compelling LF potentially at a fraction of what could be attained by a larger, more expensive speaker.

If you are set against subs, then you will have to change your speakers to achieve a sea change in bass. Swapping amps will give you some benefit potentially, but the twin 7" drivers simply are not capable of massive LF. This is true regardless of the brand. Having reviewed and owned speakers with bass drivers from 7-8" through 15" to obtain the LF you want, and at a quality you want, you will have to move up substantially in the cost of the upgrade, likely, and go to no less than a 10", and very preferably a 12" or 15" bass driver. Doing so, you will get your bass!

However, unless you do your homework, there is no assurance that the outcome will supersede that of adding quality subs to your current speakers.
When you say you want more bass I'm assuming that you mean more defined bass: that you want to hear more of what's going on instead of what I call 'musical smoke'.

I'm in the 'try different cabling' camp and encourage you to try out a pair of Darwin Ascension Plus ICs. They may still be on sale for the price of regular Ascensions. The detail, definition and see-through in the bass range is simply stunning, which aids in increase in extension.

All the best,
Nonoise
Thanks to everyone for their input. I have confirmed that I can connect subs through my M1 DAC and will be ordering a JL Audio F112. If I feel it integrates well, I will order another one.
Hi Richard, Here is a different opinion... Your Bricasti DAC is not yet broken in. I recommend that you stay put until the unit has at least 800 hours on it... Its bass performance is bound to change in one direction or another, and finally stabilize in a spot quite different from where it is now.

Once Bricasti is stable, you can assess with better accuracy how much bass is missing if any, and what to do about it.

If you upgrade speakers or amp right now, you will just end up in a different spot of the eternal audiophilic upgraditis merry-go-round... Still dissatisfied, just in a different way from right now.

G.
04-13-15: Ricred1
I have confirmed that I can connect subs through my M1 DAC and will be ordering a JL Audio F112.
Yes, that should work fine with your particular equipment, with respect to the signal interfaces that are involved. The M1's balanced and unbalanced outputs are driven from independent output stages, so addition of the sub won't have any effect on the main signal path. Also, the M1's output stages have very low output impedances, so driving the relatively low 10K input impedance of the F112's unbalanced inputs (which you will be using, given that your Rowland amp provides just balanced inputs) won't be a problem. And the optical isolation the F112 provides for its unbalanced inputs should eliminate any possibility of ground loop issues that might otherwise arise.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al
Strongly agree with Guidocorona. How long have you had the Rowland amps and you're now thinking of replacing them. 24 hours ago you were down on subwoofers and now you're thinking about adding dual subs. What's the hurry?

Also, the F112 is designed for medium sized rooms. The Stereophile review of the 7t had them paired with the larger F113.
G.,
You are correct, I only have approximately 150 hours on the DAC and around 300 or so hours on the JR M525.

Onhwy61,
I've never been able to integrate a subwoofer, but I have someone that's going to let me try a F112 in my system. I would only replace the M525 with another Jeff Rowland amp.
04-12-15: Ricred1
I recently added the Bricasti M1 DAC. The M1 improved bass output, dynamics, and soundstaging. I still believe I can improve the bass output, but would like opinions on the most feasible way forward. In general I don't like subs. In addition, I don't have a preamp.

04-13-15: Almarg
Richard, as I recall from one of your other threads not long ago you achieved a substantial improvement in bass performance via some revisions to how your bass traps are arranged. And you apparently achieved further improvement in bass performance by going to the M1 DAC.

in light of the OP's response to what his goals were re. upgrading & Almarg's comment that room treatment was tweaked to improve bass & looking at Ricred1's room photos, one reason that bass could be lacking is because the mids & highs could be emphasized by not having those French doors covered during listening. IOW, Ricred1 could be experiencing less bass due to (1) the amp outputting not enough power in the bass freq or (2) the sonic spectrum being tipped up.
There's a lot of uncovered glass on those French doors that could mess up (i.e. tip up) the freq spectrum in your listening room. How about trying to cover up the French doors & see what that does towards balancing the freq spectrum in your room?

I also found a Stereophile review of your Aerial 7T speakers where they did some measurements:
http://www.stereophile.com/content/aerial-acoustics-model-7t-loudspeaker-measurements
The manuf specs the speaker to be 28Hz-25KHz +/-2dB but.........
take a look at the resistance & phase plots on the measurements page (link provided above) - see Fig 1: you can see that for freq 70Hz-200Hz the speaker is essentially inductive (voltage leading current & max voltage would mean minimum current). This would seem to suggest that large voltages in the mid-bass region wouldn't get as much current as they might require so mid-bass definition could potentially suffer. For freq < 70Hz the speaker is essentially capacitative (voltage lagging current & min voltage would mean max current). This would seem to suggest that even small voltages in the bass region could potentially receive large enough currents to output sufficient bass SPL. This would be the bass thump you feel which is what you want for the bass. You want bass definition for the mid-bass & that might be lacking for the reasons above.
Look at Fig 3: look at the blue curve. There's a huge suck-out at 30Hz. looks like this is the resonant freq of the bass driver (?). Also look at the roll-off in the bass driver output below 50Hz - it rolls off sharply. It's already -1dB at 50Hz & -5dB at 40Hz. I would say that at 55Hz & above the bass driver output is not rolled off. Due to this I don't believe that the manuf spec of 28Hz - 25KHz is true w.r.t. the 28Hz. it doesn't look like this speaker can output sufficient SPL at 28Hz with such a rolled off woofer response. No wonder you are considering adding subwoofers - makes sense that you want to augment the deep bass. I'm sure that the rear port will augment the bass but remember that a bass port is always 180 out-of-phase with the bass driver. Putting the port on the rear probably helps correct some of this out-of-phase behavior (not sure tho'???).

Another thing - as others have suggested you should try moving your listening seat back/forth just to ensure you are not sitting in a bass null region. And, as written above, take care of those 1st reflections off the French door - they could be messing things up more than you think.
To me it looks like your speaker is the weaker link between the Rowland amp & the speaker. Thanks. FWIW.
Hi Richard, at 350 Hours, M525 is far from delivering its proper bass. I have broken-in four Rowland amps this far... Invariably, bass optimized at approx. 800 hours.

Best, Guido
This makes me sad. You just got the Aerial speakers, then changed your amp, then got the Bricasti and now you want to make another change? This soon? I don't know you, Ricredi, but from here it looks like you have a seriously acute case of the audiophile disease. I've been there and I know a lot of others have been also. You're chasing after something that's elusive and you'll make yourself nuts. I'm sure you don't want this advice, but: stop upgrading for a while and just live with your (very good) system as it is.
The JL's are great subs and integrate well. I have a pair of F110's and they are very musical. JL suggests crossing at 80 and I think that is a bad idea with full range speakers. I have mine crossed at 45. Read Valin's review in the Absolute Sound he gives some great tips for integration.
Drubin,
No need to be sad, but a sincere thanks for your concern. I've had my Aerials for over one year. Yes, I just received a new DAC and have only had my amplifier for two months. I love advice and that's why I post questions on Audiogon. I look at posting questions as a brainstorming session. The outcome includes receiving opinions that are outside the box and opinions that are very logical that makes me think. I'm brainstorming right now and thank you for your input!
I think Al has given you great advice. Get the room correction eq and a stereo pair of subs. You will be happy. Regardless of how new your amp is I can't see it going from weak bass to deep bass. Gains made during break in are usually more within the margins and not life altering. What you are missing is most likely due to room and speaker limitation.

The only thing I would do differently is try the eq before buying the subs. It may bring the level of sonic satisfaction you desire. However, in the end, you can't go wrong with great subs