System too bassy - Primaluna & Usher

I'm looking for advice on how to tame my bass. Since upgrading my amp to the Primaluna Dialogue One from a low end Harmon Kardon, I've noticed my fatigue level from the bass has shortened my listening times drastically. That could also be because listening levels are higher because of the increased power. Regardless, I would like to tame the bass which these Ushers are known for.


Lossless Files
Apple TV > unknown decent quality optical cable to...
Rega Dac > low end Monster RCA cable to
Primaluna Dialogue One > $3 ft speaker cable to
Usher Be-718 speakers
VTI Metal stands

The room is 12' X 13' with one side open concept into the rest of the condo. The wall that the system is against is actually a couple of feet shorter because of the HVAC system, which puts one speaker in a corner.

I just got the Primaluna amp and I love the Ushers and do really like the Rega Dac. So I'm not willing to change those.


I'm thinking of interconnects, speaker cables and room acoustics. I think room acoustics is a must regardless. Perhaps I do that first, then look at the total sound.

What are your thoughts?
Probably a lot of room acoustics involved. Moving the speakers 2-3 feet or more out away from the walls, especially the front wall, and corner(s) should help tame the bass I would think. Should also help with imaging and soundstage. Experiment with teh speakers at different locations. Even subtle changes in location can have a big effect on bass.

ALso how high off the floor are the speakers? If closer to the floor, getting them up higher on a good pair of rigid massive stands might help.

Toeing in speakers so tweets face more towards primary listening position might also help tilt the tonality in the direction desired away from more bass.
If options for locating the speakers to help tame bass are not practical or sufficient, and speakers must remain closr to walls and corners, then adding bass traps to the corner(s) is another thing to try.

Only after all practical placement and treatment options are exhausted would I start to think about changing anything. Some different ICs/wires might produce some change as well, but I would not rely on those as a primary solution to address bass issues.

A 250w/ch or so Class D amplifier might be an option to consider if all else fails to get that particular tube amp and speaker combo sounding the way you want. Tube amps and smaller speaekrs/monitors like those that attempt to deliver extended bass out of a small box/package is often not the ideal combo, but addressing room acoustics first in various ways as described to the extent practical might help to make things work out better.
Location, location, location! Don't spend a dime on 'stuff' until you have set up your speakers and listening chair as best possible. There have been a lot of posts on 'proper set up' and should be in the archives, both here and on AudioAsylum. Putting the speakers against the wall and or/a corner ALONE (And it appears you have done both!) could be causing your problem, but placing your listening chair is very important as well. Locating it in a bass node could cause excessive bass, albeit over a small frequency range.

Another issue to consider it the tubes you are using on the Primaluna, both small and large(power) tubes, which can make a big difference. FWIW if you haven't already tried them try some good linear 6550's or 6l6GC's, especially the latter if you want less bass but a good linear tone. I've used SED's and they are not fat! You might also try some Sovtek 12AX7LPS which have a fine mid-range and HF tone but are also not fat in the bass.
You have to get rid of those cheap cables and get something more solid core ..NOT stranded monster cable! ... THIS will make the biggest improvement in tightning up that bloated non defined bass you speak of. Dont even think about tube rolling until you fix this first. I would try Kimber,Morrow Audio, Nordost. Your speakers are awesome, hook them up with proper set of Bi-wires from Morrow Audio and your jaw will drop.Get a really nice Digital cable from . Get some Morrow skr cable and A pair of Interconnects from the dac from Morrow as well . Pay for the break in and get some of the most amazing TRANSPARENT cables you will not be sorry.
Thank you everyone! In regards to positioning, I can play with toe in some more and see if that makes a difference. But I'm very limited in changing positioning, this set up is in my living room in my condo with my lady. It's already a blessing she's ok with having the primaluna on display on top of our fireplace unit. Needless to say, changing positioning is not an option.

I actually have a set of Sovtek tubes that I haven't tried yet that came with the amp. I'll have to check what kind they are.

My stands are 24 inches high. I plan to eventually get the RWS 708 Usher stands which should tighten the bass and is adjustable.

Great ideas!!

Mattmiller -
Are those brands you mentioned known for reducing bass? I do love sweet midrange which is why I got the speakers and amp. So I don't want to lose that. I like more bass but just not too much. Also, what are your thoughts on Audioquest products? SO you think transparent cables is my answer? Not looking for cables that "reduce" bass?

You mentioned bi-wiring. Isn't that only possible when you have 2 amps? I have an integrated.
This might give you some ideas, goes along with Mapman's suggestion relating to power !!!! I agree with Newbee's placement and tube suggestions and Mattmiller's wire statements. Where are your speakers positioned in relation to the front and side walls? System pics are helpful so people can observe the whole set up !!!!
Here are pics of my setup. I can not move the speakers. After a lot of moving around this is where my lady and I agree to have everything.
Maybe experiment with position of speakers when no one else home, just as a test, not permanent, just to get a feel for how that works. Then play something the lady likes that sounds really good, and maybe you can negotiate something. :)

I'm guessing this is what you were referring to from the review you posted:

"I mostly listened to the Be-718s in my smaller (9' by 15' by 7.5'), acoustically treated listening room, but I did set them up as well in my larger (13' by 25' by 9') main room...They locked in with the smaller room amazingly well, not only "disappearing," ...

...20" from the front wall and 19" from the sidewalls. That left about 4.5' between the speakers and put them 9' from my listening position."

This kind of positioning is just not going to happen for me. Unless I put them against my window which is just not an option for us. It has to fit our life, not be our life. With that in mind, I'm open to other suggestions.
Mapman: guys just don't quit. I don't want to move the speakers because I like the way it looks. I love hi-fi but it's not my life, I still want it to look like a home. When I have a dedicated room I can do that.
Deetothevee, I hate to say this, but considering the fact that you cannot change speaker placement, I think your ability to significantly alter the excessive and, I assume loose, bass will defy significant alteration just by changing 'stuff'.

You might pick up an SPL meter and a test disc w/ 1/3d octave test tones and measure your set up to verify/locate the area of boost and the extent of the boost you are trying to cure. Do not overlook my comments about the listening position - you can also reduce the bass some by putting your chair in a null in the bass frequencies.

There are two other possible solutions. 1) Use of a sub placed away from the wall/corner, and a cross over so you can roll off the bass (excess) from your main speakers. I don't know enough about a sub's implementation with your integrated though - it might not be possible for you.

2) If you are using one source for most all of your listening you might put a 1/3d octave equalizer between your source and integrated and reduce the bass hump there.

FWIW, if you are going to consider using acoustic products to reduce bass be sure to identify where the excessive bass frequencies are. Medium to low bass frequencies are difficult, if possible, to control in a small room (if at all) in a home, especially when it is a 'shared' room.

Changing wires is for fine tuning adequate systems but not for making major alterations in frequency aberrations due to room dimensions (your is one of those as well) and speaker/listening positions.

It is possible that if you can accept listening at low levels that the excessive bass may not appear so excessive. At low levels the apparent bass response of many systems in many rooms falls off appreciably (that is why pre-amps used to have tone controls, to boost the bass).

I hope you can find a solution, but it won't be easy and will require a compromise. Good luck.
Thanks Newbee.

I just brought out my speakers about 6 inches and toed them in heavy, and yes, it did help a lot with the bass. It actually doesn't look so bad. Let's see what she thinks. But wow, if the only thing I get out of this is to hear what it should sound like, it will help me moving forward.

I could get used to how this looks :) We'll see what she thinks.
Thanks for posting the pics !!!!! That is a challenging position/room that room acoustics treatments are worth trying. Try wire first and hear what happens !!!
Mattmiller: What is Morrow skr cable?
Samhar: Any suggestions with wire? I'm new to cables. How should I start?
I don't see cables even comming close to fixing your problem. Doing it that way is like buying an EQ with only 1 fixed setting. If you can't pull them out more into your room, I would suggest you try adjusting the EQ in whatever music player you are using. If you roll off the bottom end that should help alot.
Hmm, not a bad idea. I currently have the speakers 20" away from the wall and toed in. It's helping a lot. I'm listening at low levels because its late. Tomorrow I'll see how it sounds at higher levels. I actually dont mind the look of it. The lady hasn't actually notices yet. If she's ok with it I'm leaving it! We'll see what's next. This just may have solved at least 50% maybe 80% of my problem.
20", 80%, I say go for just a few more; to shoot for 100% and act like
nothing happened. :^)
Pictures of Setup -
I agree; when you're alone pull them out 3 ft. (really exaggerate the position) and see how they sound.
Herbie's has a solution for moving speakers away from the wall during listening sessions...

Look at the "Gliders" to put under speakers. I use them with my hardwood floors. Different types for with and w/o spikes.
Haha...well that's the idea, we'll see how she responds. I can already tell a big difference. Placing the speakers 3 ft away from the wall would be rediculous. They'd be in the middle of the room.

I'm thinking with some acoustic treatments this will really be taken care of. I may be getting ahead of myself so we'll see how it responds tomorrow at higher levels. If the improvements remain at higher volume, and she's ok with the new positioning, I think I can chip away at this with all of the other suggestions and it would solve the problem We'll see. Any more ideas would always help.

I could use some guidance with cables. From what I gather, each cable has a different sound signature. People think that "transparency" is the goal, but I don't fall into that camp. There is so much that affects sound from the moment the artist opens his mouth or plays an instrument so I've accepted that fact and all I care about is what I like. And right now I would like a little less bass, maybe a little more detail and I always want more sweetness in the midrange (but without the expense of anything else at this point) and soundstage. If I had to give grades to those categories it would be ...

Sweet midrange - 90%
Soundstage - 65%
High end detail - 75%
Controlled tight bass - 40% (this might be much better with new speaker placement)
Realism - 80%
Dynamics - 80%

Of course if you asked me this a few months ago they'd be higher ;)
" I love hi-fi but it's not my life, I still want it to look like a home."

Tell me you did not just say that!

This is audiogon. Do you realize the kind of characters here who are just now reading that? 😚
Try dnm reson ics from source to amp for nice balance top to bottom and lots of clarity through the midrange.
Thank you Lowrider! Those gliders look neat. I'm definitely going to consider them. Sounds like they'd help my bass issue too.
Mapman - haha ya I know! Gotta provide balance to all ;) I'm looking into these DNM Reson interconnects
Deetothevee, once you have found a spkr position that works, you can have a listening session and then push the spkrs back toward the wall when SHE gets home. I'm single, and my spkrs are out into the room, but when I have company over, they're back against the wall.
Lowrider, ya makes total sense. I can do that now, but maybe the gliders will make it a little easier, plus it is supposed to help the tightness of bass. When things are easier you're more likely to do it so it might make a big difference.
Mapman - what made you recommend the DNM reson ic's? I've been reading about them and of course, mixed reviews.
Maybe I should test the 8 ohm selection on the amp.
Maybe the root of the problem is not the bass frequencies. The speaker measurements shown in the stereofile link posted by Samhar show that the speakers have sensitivity of 85db coupled with 4 ohm and -41 deg phase angle at around 2k Hz.

This would suggest that your amp may have difficulties with this frequency. Since you suggest that you like mid-range, you maybe increasing the volume to make-up for the amp's shortcoming and in the process increasing the sound level of the low frequencies.

Cables won't help, speaker placement will to some extent but it may not be enough.
"Mapman - what made you recommend the DNM reson ic's? I've been reading about them and of course, mixed reviews. "

"And right now I would like a little less bass, maybe a little more detail and I always want more sweetness in the midrange (but without the expense of anything else at this point) and soundstage."

DNM is one of my preferred ICs that I use a lot, so I can recommend them.

The design is quite minimalist and unique, which has some advantages that I think could play well in your case as described.

They are very balanced top to bottom, quite detailed. SOundstage is also quite good accordingly.

Bass is just right on my system with those. Towards teh leaner side of things but articulate and muscular. Getting the bass right help expose details that can be masked otherwise.

They are also uniquely coherent top to bottom, meaning that the parts of the music come together in very natural and fulfilling manner.

One way that all this plays together well is I am able to understand vocals in most recordings better with these than any others I use. There is usually no mistaking the ability to understand what the human voice is saying or not in a recording. Plus being able to greatly increases the pleasure of listening IMHO. When voices come through loud and clear, that's a very good omen for all the rest, which can be harder to judge accurately.

Plus they are not expensive and can be had for not much, especially used.
"The speaker measurements shown in the stereofile link posted by Samhar show that the speakers have sensitivity of 85db coupled with 4 ohm and -41 deg phase angle at around 2k Hz."

Yea, as I mentioned above, I do not think the amp/speaker match is ideal for best bass quality possible, especially at higher volumes, and this is probably a good indicator, but hopefully getting the setup tweaked first buys enough to make things work.

ICs may help also, but an optimal amp/speaker match is usually one of the things that pays biggest dividends over time, as does getting a handle on speaker setup and room acoustics in general.
Thanks guys! The amp was widely recommended by many people as a good fit for these speakers. But you make some good points. I think were all on the same page that if I make some tweaks there is a good chance I can make good of the situation.
Cables are the TONE CONTROLS . It is the biggest factor in improving your system.
Mattmiller - Which cables would you recommend? Here is a review of my systems strengths/weaknesses.

Sweet midrange - 90%
Soundstage - 65%
High end detail - 75%
Controlled tight bass - 40% (this might be much better with new speaker placement)
Realism - 80%
Dynamics - 80%
Morrow Audio cables, OR 2 runs of Kimber 8tc...your speakers have 2 sets of inputs so I would run 2 sets of cables per side for best sound stage and bass definition. For a few hundred dollars or less you can get these cables. It will make a HUGE difference. Happy listening.
I read that the Coincident CST interconnects were a less bass heavy cable so I bought a set. They work well in my system.
Abuck - thank you I'll check then out. How about the rest of the frequency?

Mattmiller - why those specific kimbers? Help me understand this double speaker wire thing. How do I do that with my primaluna dialog one? It only has a 0ohm and 4ohm or 8ohm connector for left and right speaker. How can I use 2 speaker wires for each speaker? I thought biwiring was if you want to power each speaker with its own power amp.
When you say morrow audio cables do you mean both interconnect & speaker wire? I found a decent deal on kimber hero rca.
Mattmiller- just learned that bi-wire is an end piece to the speaker wire. Sweet. There is one listed on another listing site but it's 2.5 meters long I need less then half of that. How is the bi-wire end attached? Something a layman can do or is it best to have a pro do it? Another option is I pick up this cable and cut it down and sell the remaining. Just not sure who can do that for me.
Biwire is only possible with a bi-wire capable speaker. 2 sets of terminals are on the back of the speaker, one pair for the woofer, and one pair for the tweeter. I see your spkrs have these.

At the amp end there is one L and R connector and at the spkr end there are 2 pairs. You drive the tweeter and the woofer separately depending on the load needed for the highs and the bass. At each one of these separate pair of terminals, the LOAD seen by the amp is different; bass uses more current. In a traditional setup with only a L/R at the spkr, the internal crossover distributes the signal to both drivers. Some believe sound is better when woofer and tweet are wired separately.

I think Mattmiller is talking about a double-run from amp to spkr terminals (2 separate cables for each spkr)
Mattmiller- just learned that bi-wire is an end piece to the speaker wire. Sweet. There is one listed on another listing site but it's 2.5 meters long I need less then half of that. How is the bi-wire end attached? Something a layman can do or is it best to have a pro do it? Another option is I pick up this cable and cut it down and sell the remaining. Just not sure who can do that for me.
Oops posted again by accident.

Ya I'm still not clear in what mattmiller is referring to. Although the biwiring seems like something that might help my boomy bass. There is a pair of kimber 8tc biwire banana plug wires for sale. He's asking $250. Good deal?
Biwiring does sound better in some situations, really depends on the amp and the crossovers in the spkrs, might be worth a try since the amp would be driving the bass and the high loads separately. Sorry, don't know about prices; Google some Kimber retailers?

A double-run would require 2 cables hooked up to same tap at the amp, then one cable runs to the tweeter, 2nd cable runs to the lower bass terminal. IMO, this probably would sound better than a single cable. But, you would need to buy 4 cables and be able to wire them both to the amp terminal, meaning using bare wire or spades.
I think this is what mattmiller meant.

PS...In both cases, you would be removing the stock jumpers on the speaker terminals which would be beneficial.
Biwire to resolve bass issues in this case seems like a total potshot and a bandaid at best.
"Biwire to resolve bass issues.."
Agree, Mapman. This is not the root of the problem; spkr placement and room acoustics are the most plausible cause.
But since the OP is looking for an upgrade in cables as well, some used Kimbers would improve definition in his spkrs.
Ya I totally agree with all of this. Based on my reading, it seems that an upgrade on the right type of cables (ones that are tighter and leaner) should help the situation, plus the bewiring would help too. I don't know anything about removing stock jumpers on the speaker terminals of my amp and all of that.

I changed the tubes which I'll get to in a min...

I agree that speaker placement and room acoustic treatment are my best, closest to source of problem, options (other then changing my amp or speakers). I just got the amp and really love the speakers so I'm leaving that as a last case scenario, but will try to avoid spending too much with an inevitable case of having to replace the amp. The speakers are already out pretty far from the wall without it looking pretty weird being half way in the room. So room treatment seems to be the next best thing. Although there is a possibility of me moving within a year.

So last night I switched out my primaluna EL34 power tubes for some svetlana EL34 WC tubes that came with my used purchase. I've only listened for a couple of hours. It seems that these are making the issue a bit worse, but that's not conclusive just yet. I need a bit more time to listen. Does this sound characteristic of these tubes?

PS. What are your collective thoughts on DNM resin and Coincident RCA's and how they're known for a more lean sound?
IMO neither changing speaker cables nor biwiring would in themselves be likely to result in significant improvement, given particularly the short lengths of your speaker cables (most relevant cable parameters and most cable effects are proportional to length), and given that cabling is clearly not among the major root causes of the problem. Nevertheless, I strongly urge you try biwiring, but in a certain way. Let me explain.

What I suggest that you try is as follows:

1)Remove the jumpers on the rear of the speakers that connect the terminals of the high frequency driver to the terminals of the low frequency driver.

2)Connect the "0 ohm" output terminal of the amp (which is referred to on many other amps as either the common, -, negative, or black terminal) to the - terminal of the speaker's low frequency driver, for the corresponding channel.

3)Using the other wire in that 2-wire speaker cable pair, connect the 4 ohm output terminal of the amp to the + terminal of the speaker's low frequency driver.

4)Using another 2-wire speaker cable, or the other 2-wire pair that may be included in a bi-wire cable, connect the "0 ohm" terminal of the amp to the - terminal of the speaker's high frequency driver.

5)Using the other wire in that 2-wire pair, connect the 8 ohm (not 4 ohm) output terminal of the amp to the + terminal of the speaker's high frequency driver.

In other words, you would be driving the high frequency part of the speaker from the 8 ohm tap, and the low frequency part of the speaker from the 4 ohm tap.

A major reason that the bass heaviness is evident with the Prima Luna to a much greater extent than with your former HK amp, which I presume was solid state, is the interaction of the tube-based Prima Luna's relatively high output impedance with the speaker's impedance variation as a function of frequency (see Figure 1 here), the speaker impedance being generally high in the deep bass region, and also including a very large peak in the 50 to 90 Hz area, while reaching much lower values in parts of the upper midrange and treble regions. Using the lower output impedance of the amp's 4 ohm tap for the low frequency driver, while using the 8 ohm tap for the high frequency driver, will significantly alter that interaction in the direction you seek.

-- Al
Those Ushers are very difficult to drive and control. They may go loud easily but to control them you need a lot of current which the Prima Luna cannot provide. Look at some nice SS amplification like Symphonic Line or Naim. They are known to be very musical amps while still controlling the drivers like mad.
Almarg-- thank you. I've read your post 3 times. It got a bit clearer but I'm still confused. I'm not clear enough to try it yet. Each speaker cable has a - & + wire. When you say to connect one of the pair of wires, do you mean both - & + ends of the same "speaker wire" into said terminal? (Or even both ends (2of4) of a biwire)