System Dissatisfaction - My Own Fault


I have been very happy with my current system for several years.  The stereo rig is a Yaqin MC-30L tube amplifier with Focal 836v speakers.  My home theater rig uses an Integra 50.1 receiver and the same speakers.  I got the audio bug and purchased a Cambridge Audio Azur 840A integrated amplifier with the intent of using it as a power amplifier for home theater since it has fixed level input capability and also improve the overall sound for stereo listening when not using the tube amplifier.  The end result was that the Integra/840A combination resulted in too much noise in the system.  I worked with Cambridge Audio and I'm sure that what I'm experiencing is normal, just not a good solution.  Overall, I didn't feel that the 840A was an improvement as it was warmer sounding that I prefer (at least in comparison) to my Integra and tube amplifier, but for some music the stronger bass did sound fantastic.  I opted to pull it back out of my system and now I'm realizing that I'm not as satisfied with my current system as I was before.  It seems that the 840A was good enough (more different than better) to put me in a state of limbo with both my receiver and tube amplifier.  It's sort of annoying that it has come to this.

I'm sure that I'm not the only one that has created their own dissatisfaction by just not choosing to be content.

If I can get a good price out of the 840A I may be able to turn it into Pathos Classic One (I would be able to do an in home audition with it).  If I win the lottery I'd be going for a Krell integrated as I heard one in a setup the other day and was once again blown away as I have always been with just about any system with Krell.  If only I had $6,000.  I could get one if I were willing to upgrade my house for my wife, but short of that it's a pipe dream for the most part.  One day I will have a Krell amplifier.
mceljo
This is a bit of a ramble. There is too much to decipher. What is the specific issue and with what rig? List the components. What is your budget? :-)

I hope you won't take offense to this, but from my experience, both your receiver and speakers are potential weak points. The Focals are mediocre speakers, even for their price range. I know they have a lot of fans, but like some other brands, I think that's more due to brand recognition and wide distribution. If you're experiencing fatigue and lack of "involvement" with the music, start auditioning some speakers. You gotta start with the right speakers.
I think that your system is just fine. And so did you for a protracted period of time.

When you introduced the Cambridge your ears began to acclimate to the warmer sound. Then when you returned to your original kit it sounded somehow wrong. If you keep listening to your original kit your ears will adjust back in two to four weeks and everything will be enjoyable once more. No big deal.

If the Focal speakers are connected to the 8 ohm tap on your tube amp, you should try the 4 ohm tap. The speaker is rated at 8 ohm, however it drops to a low of 3 ohms. Using the 4 ohm tap will not cause any problem and likely sound better. That Focal speaker is better suited for a solid state amp.

I'm sure that I'm not the only one that has created their own dissatisfaction by just not choosing to be content.

Nope, in fact I would say that most of us have experienced this phenomena. I have screwed up the sound of my system several times over the decades by not leaving well enough alone.
Staying content is a challenge that not many of us handle for very long periods of time.

Join the crowd!
noromance - You noticed the rant like tone to my post?  I'm not necessarily looking for advice, it's more along the lines of looking for some similar experiences because I know most audiophiles have had similar experiences...especially, those that don't have the funds to be constantly trading out gear.  Thanks for listening.

helomech - I won't argue that my receiver is a weak point in my system and I really don't judge the sound of my system by anything other than my tube amplifier that is far superior.  I have the receiver for home theater applications and was hopeful that the Cambridge Audio might close the gap between the receiver and the tube amplifier for more background listening.  However, I have had the opportunity to listen to Focal speakers ranging from the $500 Focal Chorus 706v all the way up to the $180,000 Focal Utopia Grande speakers and I absolutely love the Focal sound.  I've heard my 836v speakers hooked up to the system that was there for the Utopia speakers and included Krell mono blocks and also on an inadequate Onkyo receiver that I quickly replaced.  My speakers are not a weakness to my ear, but I know they are a polarizing sound that many don't appreciate.

viridian - I agree with your assessment.  It just surprised me how much I missed the old sound when the Cambridge Audio was in the system and now it's just not sounding the same.  I did find the Cambridge Audio to sound fantastic on some recording (i.e. better) but a lot worse on others. It was odd to me how varied my opinion of it was based on the recording.

tls49 - I do have them hooked to the 4 ohm tap.  I've heard others say that my speakers are better suited for solid state amplifiers, but the Yaqin MC-30L brought my sound to a point that I could go to the local Focal dealer and listen to almost anything and come home and be happy with my sound.  I'm not saying that my sound was equal, but there are certain qualities/characteristics that remained.  The best I've ever heard any Focal speaker sound has always been with Krell amplifiers.  The local dealer made a switch from Krell to Asthetics and I was never as impressed as I was with the Krell.  The S-300i has been a bit of a dream amplifier and I had my chance to get a demo for a great price, but it simply doesn't fit in my cabinet and there's no other place for it.  The current Krell integrated is my new dream amplifier, but at $6,000 I'd have to be willing to move (my wife said I could have one if we got a bigger house) or possibly get her a camping trailer but then it just added that much more to the financial outflow.  I heard the new Krell integrated in a system just the other day and even though I absolutely hated the music I couldn't pull myself away from the sound.  I realized later that it was likely the Krell that drew me in.  It's a consistent result.

jmcgrogan2 - I probable should have used something like the following for that part of my post: <sarcasm on> <sarcasm off> I have a difficult time communicating without sarcasm.
I guess you are ready to trade in the wife. If she doesn’t net you the $6k, stick it on a card. Or buy used. There are a few KSA100/150 for $2k out there. #youonlyliveonce
noromance - Your username makes perfect sense!  I would throw away all of my audio gear before letting my wife get away.  At the moment my home is my only debt and based on cash in the bank could easily afford the Krell, but no just spending $6,000 on a “want” is the reason the other things are true.  Life is all about balance and priorities.  Part of the struggle is I hate not buying what I really want because in the end you often eventually get it while spending even more money along the way trying to be satisfied with lesser products.  I tend to get the Vitamix rather than trying multiple cheaper competitors, but at some dollar point things transition into the out of reach category for what it is.  Audio equipment like the Krell Vanguard is at the extreme edge.
https://www.amazon.com/Krell-Vanguard-Integrated-Stereo-Amplifier/dp/B00TUXG9TO

$4500 new. One left. And keep the wife.
mceljo These speakers you have are said to very similar in their impedance/phase graph to the 826 below,.
And this suggest very strongly, that both amps you are using especially the tube, Don’t have the gonad’s to be able to do these speakers justice, especially in the bass between 70hz and 200hz, where the impedance combined with the - phase angle will present a very hard current sucking load to the amp.

https://www.stereophile.com/images/archivesart/1110Focfig1.jpg

Cheers George
no romance - That’s actually the retail price for that model. The digital module is another $1,500 on their website. Thanks.  I think I could do this deal locally.
I did find a solid price for a digital vanguard on Audiogon, but it’s still pushing $4,000 which I just can’t get comfortable with. I found a S-300i for closer to $2,500 that I might be able to get comfortable with. It’s from the same online retailer that I purchased the Cambridge Audio 840A and it seemed to be a legit deal and a quality product.
The curse of 'critical listening' is the op's problem. You got some new toy and 'listened' to "IT" instead of just going on bye.
So now you are in that state of mind where you are LISTENING TO THE EQUIPMENT instead of to the music or movie...
Common curse.
The solution is the stop listening to the equipment and judging it all the time.
Get over it.
Best advice I can give.
elizabeth - There's certainly a lot of truth in what you say.  I try to make judgements of my equipment based on the general feeling that I get with it being background listening.  For example, the difference between my receiver and tube amplifier is such that even with Pandora streaming from my phone I can tell if the tube amplifier is being used from the next room.  The receiver will sometimes grate on my nerves a bit, but not always.  I had an issue with my Integra and made a really stupid purchase in an attempt to replace it with a truly budget solution and the result was horrible.  I don't think my wife would have let me keep it it sounded so poor.  For me, it's not so much about if I can hear a difference with careful listening in an A/B setting, but how do I feel about it after letting it play for a few days or weeks while I go about my business otherwise.

In this case the Cambridge Audio did excel in some areas, possibly related to it having more power that's a good match for my speakers.  It did have a powerful sound in comparison to the Integra even though they are rated similarly for wpc.  I don't expect the tube amplifier to have the same powerful sound as it excels at other types of music.

There's no perfect solution in the world of budget audio and maybe never.
Way back I owned a very nice Hafler DH110 I  built from a kit. For some insane reason I cannot fathom I traded in the Hafler for a 'bells and whistles all new Sony 'digital' preamp.The first digotal preamp
I slowly stopped listening to music over the next few months.
I though why? and then it hit me. That POS Sony preamp sucked.
I sold that and bought a used Counterpoint S2000. Which was music from heaven. (if only it would have stopped breaking down.)
@mceljo

My speakers are not a weakness to my ear, but I know they are a polarizing sound that many don’t appreciate.
Fair enough. I don’t know of any affordable SS integrateds that truly mimic tube sound. I’d suggest the Croft Phono Integrated but you probably want something with a remote control. Regardless, I’d stay away from the tube + class D hybrids, they sound nothing like a tube amp. It seems many make that assumption, but IME, the typically thin and analytic class D traits negate any tube warmth.

If going the hybrid route, I’d stick with a class AB amp. You might check out these.

http://www.audioadvisor.com/mobile/prodinfo.asp?number=VISV500
Not a lot of power on paper but I’d almost guarantee it’ll seem more powerful than your Integra.
Well, since I'm a glutton for punishment in recent month I decided to double down on my audio purchases and will be trading in the Cambridge Audio 840A along with the cash from selling the Cambridge Audio 551R and a little out of my personal funds for a Pathos Classic One MKiii that's at one of my local shops that I enjoy doing business with.  I do have a 30 day money back policy to cover me if I decide it was a stupid move.

I think the hybrid amplifier with a bit more power than my Yaqin just might work well for me.  I've heard the amp before in years past when I purchased my speakers and receiver, but I never focused on it based on the systems it was connected to and such.  One of my more memorable listening experiences was with the Pathos Logos (similar design with more power) and a pair of Focal 807v speakers.  The owner set me up with that system to do a speaker cable comparison (hardware store cable vs. a $2,000 set that I had no idea how much it cost until after).  The 807v speakers are the large bookshelf speaker in the same lineup as my 836v floor standing speakers and they have the same tweeter.  I remember being really really impressed with the detail in that setup.  Pathos has always been on par, but different, with Krell so I'm excited to give this amplifier a try.

I should be bringing it home tomorrow.  It's been on loan to a local retail shop so the owner had to go retrieve it and I needed to get my amplifier all packed up.

I'll be sure to report on how I like it, but I'm curious to see what you all think.  Did I just make another lateral move or possible make a nice improvement?
Dissatisfaction resolved.  I love the sound of the Pathos Classic One MKIII so far.  It has a very smooth top end and powerful bass even at the low volumes that I have been able to listen to it at (the kids are in bed).  The soundstage makes me feel like the performers are on the opposite wall which is different than any of my previous gear, but I really like it.

I didn't get the remote (have inquired about it as it may have just been overlooked), but my Harmony remote has control so it's a non-issue.  I did get the original box with the shipping label from Italy.

I love my Yaqin tube amplifier, but the one thing that I always felt that it lacked was great bass at lower volumes and it didn't like being turned way up so there was always a balancing act.  The Pathos clearly has more to give.
@georgehifi, I am interested in your thoughts on the Pathos Classic One MKiii being a good match for my Focal 836v speakers.

@helomech, I picked up the Pathos for around 1/3 of the original retail price (about 1/2 price if I factor in the loss on the trade-in) which made it an affordable option. I am really pleased with the amplifier which I assume is at least partially due to the hybrid configuration.

Now that I have had more time to listen and evaluate the new addition I am completely blown away with the sound. The Cambridge Audio 840A made my system sound totally different and as much as I liked some aspects of the new sound I missed the sound of my system. I have always felt that my Integra and Yaqin had a similar sound in the same way that my Focal 836v speakers has a similar sound to the Focal 806v speakers that my father-in-law has. The sound quality isn’t the same, but there is a lot of characteristics in the sound that they have in common.

The Pathos seems to maintain the sound of my system and just take it to the next level. It doesn’t take away the highs like the Cambridge Audio, but still adds a more powerful, yet refined, bass response.

With the Cambridge Audio I was all over the map on liking it or not. It was great for some music, ok for some, and downright poor for some others to a point that really didn’t make sense to me. I think it was just an issue of how I want some recordings to sound and they no longer did. With the Pathos I have not found a single thing that isn’t drastically improved.

When I read the reviews for the Pathos I can understand the things that the reviewers liked or disliked and hear them in my system. One criticism is the bass being too refined, but while I can hear what is being described I like the result. One of the most positive reviews suggested that it was an excellent amplifier for the Focal Utopia Diablo speakers which says something for an amplifier at the $3k retail price point matching to a $10,000+ pair of speakers. I have heard the Diablo’s several times and would consider them an absolute favorite. I have never heard a Focal speaker that I didn’t like, they just get too expensive for my budget. I feel that this Pathos and my Focal speakers are a pretty solid match for my budget. I really would never spend more on speakers than I did on the Focal and likely wouldn’t spend more than the Pathos would have cost new which puts me near the top end of the gear that I would ever be willing to own.

This thread started with dissatisfaction and has transformed to audio bliss.
mceljo OP969 posts02-11-2018 9:02am@georgehifi, I am interested in your thoughts on the Pathos Classic One MKiii being a good match for my Focal 836v speakers.

With it’s solid state output, while it will work fine and probably sound good, the Pathos has a question mark on it’s upper bass performance judging by this review of it.

"Pathos Classic One Mk 3 reviewAffordable hero fares well against its higher-priced competitors

By TechRadar Staff March 04, 2008Amplifiers

FOR
  • Appealing design
  • Precise volume control
  • Good tonality and detail
AGAINST
  • Some bass issues:  The bass control issues apply mostly to the higher bass regions, making rhythm occasionally a little unclear." 

Their are no bench tests done on it, so I can’t say why this is. But it’s right in the region where the Focal’s are at their worsted to drive mid/upper bass.

https://www.stereophile.com/images/archivesart/1110Focfig1.jpg

All I can say is to listen before you buy and take note of that bass region in particular 60hz to 200hz

Cheers George



@georgehifi, I already made the purchase and if there’s an issue I certainly don’t hear it that I have noticed.
One of my friends that an EE and audio aficionado stopped by today for some listening. His description was that the Parhis has a much more 3D soundstage than my Yaqin and it makes everything sound effortless.  He mentioned that I hadn’t been doing my speakers justice until now. 

The one song that we did an A/B with my Integra his comment was that it sounded like a completely different recording. 
So far so good with the new Pathos Classic One mkIII integrated amplifier.  If I could do anything differently it would have been to just purchase it when it was first available rather than messing around with the Cambridge Audio gear.  In the end I spent pretty much the same out of pocket between the loss on the trade-in of the Cambridge and the reduction in price on the Pathos from when it was first made available.  The silver lining is a friend got a nice Cambridge Audio receiver at a fantastic price and it's a great fit for both his needs and budget.