Suddenly, things are sounding awful...

So I hooked my system back up after about a 6 month absence (though the speakers were seeing constant use in another system for much of that time). 6 months ago, the tonality was fantastic. Things sounded rich and detailed. Now, the system sounds extremely bright (especially on top), very grainy, and much of the detail is gone.

I did indeed change the system's position in the room. But Everything has been repositioned very carefully, and I don't see why there would be any major acoustical problems.

The equipment is as follows:
Silverline SR15 monitors.
Audio Refinement CD Alpha
Audio Aero Prima series 1 integrated
Analysis Plus cabling

The only thing I can think of is that perhaps my NOS tube in the Prima is dying. But could that cause brightness and graininess? Those aren't the symptoms I would normally associate with a failing tube.

Suggestions, comments?

Give it some constant play time... and see how it sounds in a few days. If I recall correctly some speaker cables and interconnects will require a shorter "break in" time after being dormant for many months... mostly a rebiasing of the dialectric if memory serves, however I have had this experience in the past as well...

Keep us posted.
"Everything has been repositioned carefully". Does this mean that you put it in a new location, but carefully, or does this mean that you changed it back to the old position. If it's in a new location, no matter how carefully set up, its bound to sound different because of the way the room treats the sound waves and reflections.

I changed from the speakers in front of the short wall to in front of the long wall and I couldn't believe it was the same system or the same room.

Probably a good time to revisit room induced acoustics.
Maybe your system is haunted! Just kidding, on the more serious side it could be that as your tube breaks in, it will extend itself more in the high frequencies, changing the whole sound. Consider a different tube that has warmer characteristics.
Ditto on the give it some play time. Don't know why but one or two of my components get that tizzy not burned in sound if left dormant too long.
Newbee, that meant that I put the system in a new position with careful attention paid to addressing acoustical problems. You're right that it's going to sound different, though I'd expect the basic tonality to remain at least similar. Perhaps that's not right.

The cables were actually all being used by a friend while I was gone. They shouldn't need any burn in time.

The tube is not new, and it's had probably 50 hours of playing time since I came back. It's a Mullard 6922, the lushest of the lush. Does anyone think it could be dying?

THanks for the feedback guys, I appreciate it all!
The tube certainly could be the problem, Oliver. However, I would suspect that the re-orientation in the room has more to do with it. I rotated our system from one wall to another, and I would have thought that we'd changed at least one of the components. Also, each time you have listened since returning, the amp has had 25 minutes or so to warm up, correct? And you're using all the same cords/cabling as before?
Hope all is well with you,
sounds funny but.... have you made sure that all the contact points have been cleaned on the cables and equipment? Have your actual room changed in it's treatments in some way unlike that which had been before? In the new set up has the placement of the speakers changed in the dimentionality? such as from short wall to long wall? Just some added things to could make a difference for you.
I also think it's the room...

See if you can put things back to the way they were previously. Once you do that, you'll know if it was positioning or if your tastes have actually changed during this time.
I think the system was cold. Reevaluate after a day or two of leaving it on and see.
Lousyreed, Re, "Perhaps thats not right"........

It's not right. The room and speaker positioning in it has a far more dramatic effect on the sound than most folks recognize. Even some of the folks that do, still underestimate it. Life (for us thats audio) should be so simple. :-) Trelja's idea is a good one if you can still do it, at least you will know if you have a piece of equipment that has changed. PS I don't think its the tube - when they age they get dull, lifeless, and noisy. New tubes can be a bit bright for 24 hours or so.

One of the many things that can happen when you rearrange speakers, for example, is in the new position you may well completely change the frequency respone curve in the lower mids and/or bass because of the rooms dimensions. Thin out the lower-mids and the highs will now 'seem bright' even though they may not have changed at all.
It really is amazing how many times I've been told about room acoustics and how many times it has failed to sink in! I'll keep all this in mind and not freak out too much about tubes. Thanks guys.
Lousyreeds1, we are just about all guilty of the same offense.

We focus on the glamour stuff, when the room is the most important component. The coupling of the room and speaker is directly responsible for a larger share of the sonics than any other component. Just try the same speakers, or ANY other piece of equipment, in two different rooms and it becomes instantly clear. Still, despite these words, like the cable folks and the myriad of snake oil salesmen in our hobby, be wary of those who want to charge lots of money to apply common sense solutions to one's room.

Take what I say with a grain of salt, the information being no better than the source. It has taken me a couple of years of living in a shouty, bright room to realize that I need to quiet the upper midrange and treble regions down to put the music into the proper balance. But, I have now purchased the material - burlap, long hair carded wool (need to buy some Mothguard), and am ready to fix my issues...
My system which I'm very happy with sat idle while I listened to my headphones because I moved to a new place and the brightness made it unlistenable. Seriously, now tell me what's improtant?

BUT, I can't hardly blame people for not knowing what to do with the acoustics. Acoustics aren't that complex, but all these companies that charge a premium will make it seem like it is something only experts can understand, and you have to pay $500-$1,000 for a panel that is just condensed fiber glass with a pretty fabric (I realize it's a little more complex but...). So, a lot of audiophiles go back to what's easy... upgrading components.
So I've had to move things around again, hopefully for the last time. Now I'm really clueless about what to do acoustically. I have everything shoved into half of the room, with one speaker about 18" from a wall. Yikes! My system is under 'getting started' and it's called 'the blue room'. There are pictures posted. Does anyone have ideas for me? I have more foam lying about.


Move the listening chair away from the back wall.
Try to position your ears in an equalateral triangle with the speakers with more toe in.
Thanks for the advice. Sadly, I really can't move any furniture. I can, however, change the speaker positioning slightly, or add/subtract foam from the walls. I've experimented with toe in, but haven't found anything that sounds better than this.

If your room is still as in the system pics I'd suggest to get panels for the first reflection points in the sidewalls. To get a glimpse of the effect use some of the fiber you have lying around or heavy blankets for those points and the backwall. Maybe you just open the window drapes for the pic taking, if not compare sound with them open vs. closed.
How does the room's left side wall (from listening position) looks like? Not seen in pics.
Hi, the left wall is twelve feet to the left of the left speaker. In otherwords, that left speaker is floating in air. This is why I wasn't sure what to do with first reflection points- the two sides are not equidistant to the listener.
If you are trying to tame the highs, cross the axis of the speakers well in front of you and put something diffusive or absorbant on the wall between the windows. And, of course, put the drapes back down. That might well solve some of your problems with the highs. Looks a bit odd, but it can really work.
You really need to move those speakers back about 2 feet and move the sofa forward the same distance. I'd try it just for fun and I think the sofa and room would look better that way; more relaxed and friendly. It's a real cool looking room as is and to bring the sofa into it would make a huge difference as regards aesthetic appeal.

It would also take away a lot of the hard surface ringing effect I'm sure you're getting. I did that about five years ago and the sound smoothed out quite a bit. Heads, just like most speakers, need to be away from room boundaries.
Am I seeing something, or are your two speakers not the same distance from the back wall? The right one (as you're seated) appears to be closer.
Those windows will reflect a lot. And as Tom said, try moving the couch in a little. That back wall has got to cause some problems.
Good luck,
Lousyreeds, this is also a similar situation to what I face. A smaller room, with not a lot of absorption, and a lot of hard surfaces.

We'll presume you were able to site the system as it was prevesiously, in the happier times...

Your speakers look to be in a pretty good position in being out from the front wall from my eyeball, but I will tell you that if you measure more carefully than I can via your pictures, you may want to move the speakers out a bit more into the room. Following the Audio Physic speaker positioning guide helped me significantly even if the amount of space needed to get my speakers where they recommended seems small. For the full text, you can look it up on Stereophile's website, under Jonathan Scull's old column, Fine Tunes. Title may be "Loudspeaker Positioning, Part 1". Somewhere in the 2000 - 2001 area, I think.

Quickly, the gist is that there are areas that kill bass and areas that make it as good as it can be. Halfway out into the room is best, but is impractical for most people. A quarter of the way is the next best position, and works for a lot of us, including me. Your room setup supports this brilliantly as well. Next, you want to be a quarter of the ways out from the sidewalls as well. The absolute no - no is to be a third of the way out, from either the front or sidewalls. These positions are bass killers, and will shift the overall feel of the system towards the mids and highs, something we need to be most vigilant about in this situation.

In my own experience, doing this required pretty small movements, but resulted in more significant improvement than I would have ever believed. I was along the 1/3 lines from the sidewalls, and gained a lot. Hats off to AP for sharing this with the audiophile world.

The other thing is that rather than toeing your speakers in more, you should try the opposite. I would predict with a pretty high degree of certainty that if you pointed the speakers straight ahead, a significant amount of brightness would vanish. Right now, the tweeters are possibly aiming right at your ears, and the presence region is hardwired into your brain.

Still, I most certainly do NOT recommend placing speakers this way, as imaging is also destroyed. Very good or better than that soundstaging, once experienced, can never be replaced. Whenever I toe speakers in, I get rewarded with that panoramic soundstage that I will simply not be without. Pointing the speakers straight ahead drives me crazy. I just wanted you to give it a shot to see if we can confirm that it is not the system that is the culprit.

The means to solve the problems, in my opinion, are to address the room.

If you have the extra foam you have said, for fun, try covering the four corners in the room where the two walls and the ceiling comes together. The quick and dirty way is to simply mimic the triangular Room Tunes method of covering the corner with one piece of foam turned caddycorner. If it moves things in the positive direction, you can investigate using a different configuration to cover up these areas.

To my ears, this is a nasty place where a lot of reflection occurs, and as we all know how sound travels, it's going to be the upper mids and treble frequencies which can move the most freely. As such, a lot of brightness and harshness occurs in these instances, especially, in smaller rooms. My own low intelligence puts forth that since more of these frequencies are added into the mixture, the overall balance of the sound is thrown off in the fatiguing direction.

Of course, your experience may be quite different, but I think given the abundance of foam, time, and the desire to settle the sound down, it's at least worth a quick try.

If this happens to help, you can also treat the other areas that Room Tunes addresses, where the four walls come together (though I think the doorway nixes one of those to be treated), and the front and back wall to ceiling interface.

Lastly, while I understand moving the listening chair out into the room is not an option, and this presents no problem, a bit of absorption on the wall behind the listening chair is also high on the list of things to try. Simply put a piece of foam there as well.

I do believe in the adage that a room too live is preferable to one too dead. You can always quiet things down, and my opinion of music needing to be full of life and vibrancy dictates that a bit of sparkle and jump factor is mandatory.

Hi folks, thanks for all the wonderful help. I'll try out these suggestions as soon as I can, you'll hear from me again soon.
And Howard, the speakers are actually the same distance from the front wall. The picture is quite deceptive. Thanks for the advice!
Must have been me, Oliver, as I sit perpendicular to the computer. :-)
Well guys, I've done some experimentation.

First, I tried moving the speakers back and the couch forward. Nope. Still bright as hell.

Then, I moved the couch back to the wall, and put the speakers 1/4 of the way into the room, as per Trelja's suggestion. That was a serious improvement.

Next, I towed the speakers in so they cross about one foot in front of me, a la Newbee. Bingo. Brightness gone.

Imaging and soundstaging are not good, but those I can live without for the next little while until I move. I need my tonality. Can't deal with the brightness.

I tried placing foam behind my head, this killed the bass and did little for the brightness. Foam on the side wall, surprisingly, had almost no effect.

Foaming the ceiling corners would be serious project, and I'd probably kill myself in the process, so I'm going to save that one for later.

Anyway, things are improved, thanks to all the great comments I got. I appreciate everyone's help!