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Chris, having auditioned the Marantz cd-63 in my system some time ago, I remember it sounded rather bright and grating. I ended up buying a Cambridge player and found it much smoother and musical. Not familiar with your speakers, but I've owned Adcom in the past. The amp is probably relatively neutral, but I suspect the passive pre-amp is contributing to a rather anemic sound. I've found passive pre amps to lack dynamics. That's just my preference, others would take exception to that opinion. Also, you cannot underestimate the importance of room acoustics and treatments for problems therein. Do a little reading on the subject to get a sense what your acoustic room issues might be.
I can almost guarantee it's your CDP. Using a passive preamp (which usually is very transparent) is likely exposing more of the problem with the CDP. Also, since you are getting no gain from the preamp, you may be stressing your amp depending on how loud you're playing.
Room can definitely be a contributor, but, even in the best room, that CDP won't cut it for true audiophile purposes. Funny you mention cymbols since that CDP was notorious for splashy cymbols. Its day has passed.
Unfortunately, most cheap CDPs (and many pricey models) have issues in certain areas that can be hard to swallow over the long term. That's one of the reasons why vinyl is still alive and well.
At a minimum, look to a current model CDP with a recent DAC and good transport. If you have a DVD player in the house, swap it with your Marantz, and I bet even that will sound better on CDs.
Here are two alternatives that will work
a. Get a Cardas 300B Microtwin interconnect to put between your cd player and your preamp. You should be able to get these for less than $100 at /www.gcaudio.com
b. The next step, in addition to a good interconnect, and one I'd recommend to anyone who is running a solid state amp, is to replace your preamp with a tube preamp. It will make all the difference in the world and your system will come alive.
You need to change your IC & spk. wire before making any other changes. I would recommend Tara Labs Prism 22/33, Wireworld Oasis III, VDH D-102 among the possible choices. RS "Flatline Gold" 14ga. spk. wire is a really good inexpensive spk. cable which will provide much better sound than the Monster's you're using. IMO. ($20, 50') Bare wire termination. (Follow Elizabeth's advice and do not touch the exposed copper w/your fingers. Does make a difference.) Onecall.com had/has? AQ Type 4 @ $2.50 a ft. if you want to try some solid core wire. Try this first and then decide if you need to change a component.
Whoa, how far out into the room are the speakers? Change the position to see what happens first. Next get a 14" bike inner tube, blow it up some and set it under the CDP to see if the sound becomes less bright. Do the same to the preamp. If not, then try a few different power cords and ICs to see what happens, borrow them from a dealer. Try an Acouistic Zen Tsuami power cord and Matrix ICs to see what happens.
When the passive + amp combo sounds thin, it's usually a matter, either of a) impedance (signal transfer b/ween pre+amp) OR b) upstream component.
In your case it's probably the cdp. I've heard it and it sounded to me more or less as you described it.
OTOH, I would hardly expect that engineers at adcom know nothing about circuit analysis and therefore can't choose a volume pot (the passive) that bridges with their own amps!
Kotta's suggestion for solid core is also good BUT ONLY if you live in a relative quiet environment, free from stray fields (otherwise you just could send the system into oscillation)!
With all due respect to those suggesting solutions which involve cables, wires, etc., replacing the cd player & preamp first would be much more likely to yield "big bang for buck" improvements. The cd player is quite old now and you can do much better than the marantz cd-63 without spending big bucks. I also agree with the suggestion to try a tubed preamp in combo with solid state power. Not to dimininsh the importance of good wire, but trying to use wire as a tone control to cover up sonic sins is a quick route to frustration.
Chris, I am not familiar with your other equipment, however I can tell you that I owned the Marantz CD-63SE for a very short time and it was so bright and harsh, that I could not stand to listed to the system for long extended periods of time.
So I think that changing your CD player would help your situation greatly.
I also had a CD63se - it's way bright and thin. If you can find a used but decent DAC, that will help a lot, but you'll also want to get a 'reclocking' device between the CDP and the DAC. You could probably pick both up for not too much $, but at that point you could probably get a comparable newer (used) CDP for that kind of $... Also, power conditioning (even a cheaper unit) or isolation can be pretty useful with a cheap CDP. The used price for the CD63 these days - $100-$150 tells you everything: that's what it's worth.
The op-amps in all inexpensive CD players..are the problem in many a system out there. Your system will sound like it's weakest link...and fifty cent op-amps are weak indeed...this is why Dan Wright, Mr. Kern and many other people make money doind mods to CD players.
Also, the Adcom stuff is a bit bright, but not to the extent to be the cause of what you are speaking of.
I have had your problem. Not to sound mean, but I would sell your system and start from scratch. In my younger years when I ran a high end store, all the Manufacturers woud run contests. I acually won an Adcom stack, (GFA-535, GFP-565,and a GCD-575) I was using a pair of Kefs back then and could never get the system to sound right. It was the earlier Adcom stuff's sonic signature which just make my ears bleed on any less than perfect recording.
I actually sold the pre-amp first then picked up a CJ PV-10A.. Wow! Things sounded a heck of a lot better. I then picked up a Sonographe (Lower end CJ amp) and things fell into place. What I would recommend you do is sell your passive controller, your amp, and your cd player and purchase a nice integrated amp and modern day CD player such as the Creek or even NAD depending on your budget. You can get some real deals on mint used gear here on AG.
Just my advice based on my experience, not trying to add insult to injury.
Agree with many of the above posters: I also had the 63 for about 2 years. The player did some things good but overall-in a general sense-the sound was indeed bright You should start with your source(the 63) before monkeying around with cables.
Some other cdp's I've had in my system that may give you the sound you're looking for are the Rega Planet and the AhTjoeb-but please audition first.
To echo Chris' comments, I'll share my encapsulated audiophile journey which began about a year and a half ago. I also believed my system to be "bright". Today, nothing of what I originally purchased remains in my system. The idea of selling it all and starting over may sound harsh...it certainly would have sounded that way to me 18 months ago, but the reality is that I eventually did sell it all and start over. The new system has been assembled with the assistance of extremely helpful and knowledgeable Audiogon members, and it sounds outstanding.
I had a similar "brightness" problem in my system last year.At the time I had an HK 520 reciever,NAD 512 xd,and Mordaunt-Short MS908 speakers.On some CD's it was almost painfull.I tried various combinations of CD players, interconnects,speaker wires ,nothing really helped.getting kind of desperate,I tried a Rotel 1055 reciever for a weekend from a local shop.WOW...finally, CD's were listenable again,I figure the pre-amp section in the Rotel was just a lot better.After I got the Rotel,I rethought my whole setup,and ended up replaceing everything but the Mordaunt-Shorts.It is now pretty much all Rotel,and very listenable.My next project in room treatments
Just my experience