My main goals in hifi are an expansive soundstage in width and depth, and holography. My system right now is great, Rega has all the PRAT and is energetic to listen to however I feel like it's not the last word in lifelike representation.
Of course with these goals the question becomes one of budget. Tough to get the "last word in lifelike representation" if constrained by a low budget.
Looking at a budget of around 5k. I always search for used stuff on Audiogon so it’s feasible I could nab a component that lists for 10k at my budget.
It looks like you have a pretty nice setup already. Have you tried moving the system into a larger space and sitting farther away from the speakers? You may find that you have more of those qualities you're seeking. It may be challenging to get that "expansive" experience you're seeking in a small room.
I have a system set up in a similar sized space - ARC VSI 55 integrated and Focal 1008 BE speakers and an SVS SB12 NSD sub. It sounds fantastic, very detailed, dynamic, and fun to listen to, but it does not have the same scale and soundstage of my main system which has much larger speakers and more space. I've tried larger speakers in there like my Klipsch Heresy, but they are too much for that room. The Heresys sound great in my slightly larger office which also has a much higher ceiling.
Room treatment might also help. That's something I haven't tried yet.
You might try adding a small subwoofer. That should help.
You might be expecting too much from that small space. Perhaps others that have found a way to achieve the nirvana you're seeking in a small room can chime in. I don't think replacing your current gear is necessarily the answer.
My main goals in hifi are an expansive soundstage in width and depth, and holography.
You want Synergistic Research. Speaker cables, interconnects, power cords. If you like what you have and want to get that expansive width and depth and holography without changing the overall character of what you have in any other way then what you want is Synergistic Research HFT, PHT and ECT.
These will all improve imaging allowing your speakers to disappear while throwing a wider, deeper sound stage. Search around a little, you will find everyone who has actually tried these is beyond satisfied. Its mystifying how they can do so much which triggers the usual suspects. But among those with actual experience there is no doubt. They all come with total no-questions return guarantees. Because they are that good.
They all produce roughly the same effect in roughly the same proportion but since you have a turntable I would probably start with PHT. The PHT come in different "flavors". I think Black Widow is overall the most neutral, while Green Dream leans a bit to the more liquid smooth side. Purple Haze is the only one I did not care for. They recommend one on the cartridge but try more, I have one Green Dream and one Black Widow on my Koetsu, plus one more Green Dream on my arm, and two ECT on the arm base. And one more ECT on my motor pod.
ECT you can use all over the place on just about any component. It seems like they might work better placed inside and directly on things like caps but I tried that and they work just as good if not better on the outside. We watch movies and sticking one on my laptop improved both the video and the audio so much my wife noticed without me even saying anything. We're talking serious, significant improvement here.
HFT will open up your sound stage like you cannot believe. Follow their recommendations, they are pretty good, and by the time you get to the Speaker Kit, well it is simply amazing how well they make your speakers disappear. Try em. You only thought you were hearing imaging! Ha!
Best of all these are "keepers". They come off as easily as they go on, and all will work wherever you go and whatever you upgrade to down the road. Keepers.
I agree to add room treatments; absorbion and diffusion.
In my 12 x 16 ft. room, a few panels helped shape the soundstage and focus the 3D image.
@lowrider57 Sorry, forgot to mention that my room is already treated with bass traps and diffusion. @big_greg Unfortunately this is my only listening space. @yogiboy I had P3's on trial a while back however they were a bit bass light even in my room. Would I be able to achieve a more 3d presentation by going smaller watt tubes? Given my speaker distance and the C7's 86db sensitivity, it's looking like a 45 watt amp will get me to my max listening volume. Never tried tubes so any comparisons/suggestions welcome.
Bass traps, diffusers, and all that are old school. I have experience using and building, enough to know its primitive and not even close to what I'm talking about with HFT. Its like a surgeon just told you about a whole set of scalpels and the conversation goes right back to the butter knife.
@millercarbon I'll research these. Does installation on the speakers leave any residue or marks if they are removed?
You own a very fine system as is. Another +vote for experimenting with cables and power cords. Keep us posted on new developments.
Agree with @jafant . Start by auditioning power cords. IME, they can offer a dramatic change in depth and width of soundstage.
I'm using Audience and Furutech which present a spacious and deep image.
@jafant and @lowrider57 I’ve experimented with power cables and have settled with a shunyata system. I have a dedicated line feeding a shunyata Denali with Alpha NR’s feeding my integrated and source. I settled on these after I noticed gains in both blacker backgrounds as well as soundstage depth. Really happy with what that upgrade brought to my system.
Nice. Seems like you've done well with your power setup.
I listen to classical almost exclusively and have chosen components (within a budget) that present the qualities you're looking for. It's all tubes, but I believe you can still achieve your goal with SS.
Your Harbeths are known to be fast and articulate. Can these speakers achieve 3D holographic imaging? And perhaps the small room is limiting their performance.
@lowrider57 What tube components are you using in your system and have you compared it to ss gear with classical?
@mikecorwin , yes I have compared classical and chamber music with tube and SS.
First, the reason I say wide soundstaging and holographic imaging can be achieved with SS is because I owned a Sunfire 300 amp which presented a soundstage that went deep into my front wall. It all depends on the design. I think McCormick amps are also known for this type of presentation. I dont think the British designers put as much importance on this aspect of sound reproduction.
And btw, I've always used tube preamps with SS.
Currently, I own an EAR 534 push-pull Class A amp. The preamp is Audio Note. Tubes will give you realism, IMO. Realistic tonal qualities of acoustic instruments, realistic attack and decay, more sense of being there. Of course, it's design and system dependent. I also have another tube amp which does very well except for the holography.
My tube components allow the orchestra to sound naturally layered. Many components can provide a black background which allows you to hear separation of instruments. But, the right tube setup sounds organic and spacious.
My system has deep tight punch to it, but it would not fall into the category of PRAT. Each component was chosen to have synergy for classical music. It also does very well with jazz, especially older jazz combo recordings.
Hope this was informative.
Listening now to the Bernstein/Mahler remaster and it sounds magnificent. Accurate tonal qualities, wide dynamic range, and an amazing amount of depth to the stage.
If you like the Naim sound from your amp, consider changing to a tube preamp. You should do an audition since you're looking for particular characteristics most importantly soundstaging.
I know this is not the answer you are looking for however out of curiosity I was wondering if you are using one or more dedicated 20 amp circuits and higher quality duplex outlets as in audiophile quality?
I assume the answer is yes but I wanted to know for sure.
mikecorwin, What you are is unhappy with your speakers. Everything else is just fine although you might try getting a good tube phono amp like a used ARC PH-3 SE. In a room like that you should put a 4 X 4 square pattern of foam acoustic tiles on the front wall centered on the speakers.
Get a pair of LS3 5As on stands and a JL Audio F112 sub to start. You might add a second down the line.
@lak I have a dedicated 20 amp circuit feeding my audio system with a hospital grade outlet which then goes to my Shunyata Denali. @mijostyn I had P3's on loan here and had KEF LS50's as well which while they were both awesome speakers I still feel the C7's add more body and flesh out instruments and voices better. I heard the Grahams take on the LS3's and wasn't really taken with them, felt the P3's were more exciting.
The LS3 5A is a very neutral loudspeaker and it is shy in the bass which is why I always recommend a subwoofer with them. Other speakers with more bass or hotter treble in a store situation will seem better at first. Set up correctly with a subwoofer the LS3 5A will give you everything you asked for. The only way to get more detail and a better image is to go to planar magnetic s and finally ESLs. Unfortunately your room is to small for that.
@mijostyn I’m going to audition the Chartwell LS3/5’s again along with the M30.2’s today to refresh myself with them and will report back.
Your room is not too small for vintage Quads or several other ESLs!
@lowrider57 Just listened to an EAR preamp/power amp combo through C7's and it was amazing, pretty much nailed the holography and realism that I've been describing.
@mikecorwin Nice !!
Harbeth c7’s, same as the speaks you currently own?
So, that answers my earlier question, if these speakers are capable of holographic reproduction.
I have the C7es3's, I just listened to the 40th anniversary edition which are fairly the same. EAR stuff was an 868 and 890, definitely out of my current price range but it was great to listen to my speakers with that kind of setup to get some contrast. Definitely seeing tubes in the future at some point.
Great, try and get them set up with a sub if you can. Cross it up at 100 Hz. The effect is a spooky clean midrange and a sense of air and space you do not get without the sub.
Mike , I'm pleased you were able to experience that setup. Now you have a reference, but don't forget that your room will influence the presentation of the system playback.
Not trying to push you into a purchase, but FYI, EAR makes an integrated as well.
I recently picked up a pair of the Graham Chartwell LS3/5's,and I absolutely love them. I was wondering if you had a chance to audition these again,and did your take on them change?