System upgrade advice


My current setup is okay but the high end is too shrill. Some may call it sibilant. Its driving me nuts. My setup is:

Proceed PRE preamp
Rotel RB 1080 2 ch. amp
Oppo BDP-95
Paradigm Studio 60 v2

It does seem that the Paradigm tweeter is where the issue is since I also connected them to a Yamaha AV. The Yamaha toned it down a bit but the whole sound went down a notch. I'm considering replacing them with maybe some used speakers around $2.5k (pair) like some B&W 804s. If I did that, would I have totally out classed the Rotel and Proceed?

Looking some general advice or similar stories. Tired of my ears bleeding

Thanks.
vjb
I doubt you will outclass those electronics with those 804's, but I would audition them first. If you can find a dealer to loan them to you, that would be best.

I like the Paradigm Studio series, but can see where some can find the tweeters subjectively "hot". Speakers should be where you spend the most time/money getting your system to sound the way you think it should.
Vjb, It would be helpful to know what interconnects and speaker cables you are using. Possibily changing interconnects or speaker cables could tame the high end shrillness.
I find the B & W speakers as bright as the Paradigm's.
"I'm considering replacing them with maybe some used speakers around $2.5k (pair) like some B&W 804s."

You'll make the problem worse doing that. Also, you're not going to solve the problem by just going out and buying something new. The whole system contributes to the problem you are having. You need to have some type of plan or goal as to where you need to end up, or you'll spend a lot of money and not fix anything.

Looking at your system, I suspect the problem may be shared between the tweeter in your speakers and you preamp. But just remember, anyone who hasn't listened to your system first hand, is guessing. You can start by connecting your CD player directly to your amp and use the volume control that Oppo gives you. Play some CD's that are giving you the most problems, and see if things get better, or worse. That will give you an idea as to what you need to do.
I agree with those that say the B&W's will be as bright as your current Paradigms. Maybe brighter.

Whats steps have you taken with your current speakers to reduce the shrillness? Have you experimented with room placement relative to your listening position? What about the room itself? Do you have a lot of hard, reflective surfaces in your room contributing to the high end harshness? If so, start to balance the room out with soft, sound absorbing materials - heavy drapes, area rugs, etc. More often than not, the room is the overlooked component in a system.

Finally, your Paradigms have metal tweeters and so do the B&W's. They simply may not be offering a sound that is right for you. If you resort to new speakers, audition some with soft dome, textile tweeters. You may find their sound smoother and less harsh. I know I do. Good luck solving your problem.
I used to have Paradigm Studio 80s and liked them, especially for the price paid. However, my current Gallo Reference 3.1s and Reference AVs are far superior in all respects.

The Gallo CDT tweeter is a thing of beauty and one of the best I've ever heard. In addition, the dispersion characteristics are far superior to the Paradigms. The sweet spot with the Gallos is enormous - you can sit to the left of the left speaker and still clearly hear the right speaker.

I have also heard similar comments about the GoldenEar Triton speakers. And most of them have a built-in subwoofer and digital amp that provides a very satisfying bottom end.

The Paradigms are very good, but there are better speakers out there for the money...
I agree with others that say B&W is not the answer. Look at speakers from Dynaudio, ProAc, Sonus Faber, Vienna Acoustics, Soliloquy, etc.
Speakers that have a soft dome or silk tweeter will usually sound a bit more relaxing than those with metal dome tweeters.
I think the problems are the speakers first, the Rotel second. The Proceed is a fine preamp and absolutely NOT a bright component.

Another speaker to add to your list is Aerial, they are extremely listenable and certainly not fatiguing.
I've had a bunch of digms and they all were a tad bright. Beautiful speakers and they do have a few nice things going for them. I wonder how much more of a refined, slightly more laid back sound you could achieve by replacing the crossovers with something a little better. Not crazy but in the $350-$400 range on crossovers.

Short term fix is to toe the speakers out more. Also, interconnects and speaker cables can offer some tone control.
Maybe Merlin might be a fit for you as well.
You might want to try a 'tube buffer'. Musical Fidelity makes an inexpensive one that has helped a lot of systems tone down the upper octaves.
The S tweeter is also outdated compared to the lastest tweeters. I would never go for that one. This is being said by a person who owned the B&W 800 S, with the same tweeter!
I would think a good 2nd hand pair of Infinity Renaissance 90's would sound better than the 804's. You could pick up a pair for around $1600, then use the $700 spare change to upgrade the crossover & internal wiring. Wonderfully transparent, fast, detailed & has great off-axis response. Also deep bass if paired with something like a Classe CA-2200 or similar 200 watt amp.

A few of things to look for with these vintage speakers; 1. Check for rotting foam in the transmission line midrange which can be checked from the exposed foam on the rear. 2. Try to buy no more than a 2nd owner pair with consecutive s/n's. 3. Ensure the grills are in good nick (including the pegs) & that the grills connect solidly to the speakers as they are critical to the sound of the speakers & are now unobtanium & 4. Request lots of photos, including close ups of the Emit & Emim ribbon drivers. If you can get over that hurdle, they are a terrific bargain.
The Infinity have very poor crossovers. The 804 has also not great crossovers. But those of the Infinity are really poor. I owned them in the past!!
Just remember, that when you go to demo speakers in a store, to ask the representative to connect them to electronics that are the same as or very close to your electronics.

Also, if you are allowed to take the demo speakers home to test, so much the better.

The worst thing is to listen to something in the store on equipment nowhere close to yours, in a room totally different than yours, purchase it, take it home and it is not right. Sounds totally different in your home with your electronics than it did in the store.

take your time and try to match the equipment in the store demo if possible.

enjoy
01-27-15: Bo1972
The Infinity have very poor crossovers. The 804 has also not great crossovers. But those of the Infinity are really poor. I owned them in the past!!
Yeah, and the Ren 90's still kick the 804's butt.
The Infinity is a fun speaker, I owned 2 different ones in the past. But when I started in 1998 in audio I learned how instruments sound and how small and direct they are in proportion. I changed eveything. i remember that I sold my last Kappa 100 loudspeakers a few months after I started to work in audio.
The Proceed PRE Preamp is the culprit and is known to lean towards sounding bright, even a reviewer of the Proceed Pre mentioned not to couple this preamp with highly revealing speakers for example like horns.
Bo1, the Kappa 100's are not in the same league as the Rens which are classics.
You are right, but still their crossovers are poor!
All I care about is the sound. I owned a pair & could happily live with them even coming from my Magico S5's.
Thanks for all of the input.

It has been a few years since I purchased all this equipment so I forget what the speaker wire is. It was from a high end audio store and as I recall, it was a couple notches up from the Monster cable stuff ("Silver" something or another). The interconnects are AudioQuest Green ($40 each). Are interconnects something I should consider changing? If so, what would be a good price point considering the rest of the stuff?

I will try to connect the Oppo directly to the amp and see what that brings.

I'll have to look into what a tube buffer is.

Thanks again.
Also, the room is pretty bare. Hardwood floors, no curtains, rugs, nothing but a 11x15 room with an 8' opening to the kitchen. Any comments on this would be appreciated too.

Thanks
Hold on, the room is completely bare? I'm not familiar with your gear, but if you've got all hardood floors, no drapes, no nothing to tame the slap echo and highs, do yourself a favor a start with room treatments, rather than new components. And by that I mean start with a carpet, perhaps drapes, some wall treatments, etc. You might be amazed.
The easy thing to do is experiment with speaker placement and treat the first reflection of the speakers with something that absorbs the treble. GIK Acoustics is what I use and it's very reasonably priced. I think I paid about $200 shipped for my panels IIRC

I've never liked the treble in the many Rotel components I've heard but I haven't heard your particular one.
+1 Whitecap. This is also what I said to the OP many posts ago. No amount of new gear is going to solve the problem until you look at the often overlooked component first - the room!
This is your problem Vjb.
Yes! The room. I am not familiar with the Proceed pre, however feel that the Rotel/Paradigm might be a too bright match. Possibly a warmer sounding amp might be in order as well.
Voice the room 1st.
Thanks for the input. I will look into the carpet and room treatment options.

As suggested, I connected my Oppo directly to the amp and found that it did make a noticeable difference. The treble was not as bad although still a tad bright. Unfortunately, I also seemed to lose a bit on the bass end. I will have to experiment so more.

I also tried out an older Rotel preamp but the Proceed sounded better yet both seemed to be bright. What preamps tend to be warmer? I'd be looking towards used equipment if anything.

The interconnects are AudioQuest Evergreen ($40) and also Sound Wave by Cables to Go($40).

Thanks.
"As suggested, I connected my Oppo directly to the amp and found that it did make a noticeable difference. The treble was not as bad although still a tad bright. Unfortunately, I also seemed to lose a bit on the bass end. I will have to experiment so more."

It sounds like you are almost where you need to be. Try to get the system sounding as good as you can before you buy anything. Good preamps are expensive.

Start by moving your speakers a little closer to the rear wall. That should reinforce the bass. To fix the highs, try less toe in. Also, if you are listening to the speakers without the grills, put them on. If you still need more, tilt the speakers back a little. The easiest way to experiment with this is to put pennies under the front spikes on your speakers. Just go one penny at a time. If it works, remove the pennies and unscrew the front 2 spikes on each speaker until the same amount of tilt back you got with the pennies.

Keep in mind, you're only going to be able to do so much. You still have a digital source, going into a decent, but not great amp, and then to a pair of aluminium tweeters. For a high frequency problem like this, I don't have a lot of faith in fixing this by tuning the room. Other types of problems, yes. But the highs are very directional, and the sound goes from your tweeter, directly to you ear. If you can play around with it, without investing any money, by all means try it. But if the problem persists, you're going to have to change something in your system. There's no substitute for a good preamp. That said, they're expensive, and you would only be using it to achieve a band aid like effect. A preamp can't turn an aluminium tweeter into a soft dome. And for that reason, if I had to fix your problem, it would make more sense to replace the speakers. Once you start buying components in an attempt to fix other components, you have big problems when you go to upgrade. You would then need to buy components to compensate for the components that you used to compensate for the original component, that you should have gotten rid of in the first place. You don't want to go there.

I do agree with much of ZD posts, however I can’t help but believe that regardless of what you do with the rest of your system some dampening of the room via use of carpet and pad, curtains, and some acoustic panels at primary reflection points won’t improve the treble. A bare room is simply to alive IMO. You might look into ATS acoustics of Piper City, Illinois. They sell factory made acoustic panels and DIY supplies. There web site is good.

Where is the 8’ opening relative to the speakers, listening chair, and window?
I agree. Treat the room, then play with speaker placement. Less toe, speaker grills on.

Treating your room is going to make any speaker sound better so I would definitely recommend that.

I still think that the Paradigms are not to your liking though. I've had mini monitors, studio 10, 20, 40, 60 and they were all too bright for me.
"02-04-15: Mesch
I do agree with much of ZD posts, however I can’t help but believe that regardless of what you do with the rest of your system some dampening of the room via use of carpet and pad, curtains, and some acoustic panels at primary reflection points won’t improve the treble. A bare room is simply to alive IMO. You might look into ATS acoustics of Piper City, Illinois. They sell factory made acoustic panels and DIY supplies. There web site is good."

You do have a point about improving SQ with room treatments. A lot can be done to improve focus and imaging, take care of echoes, and all sorts of similar issues. If you are talking about an issue like sibilance and other HF related problems, its just so hard to deal with the problem when the frequencies are very directional and have a direct line of sight to your ears. For me personally, its a big issue. I've been working with this problem for many years and it seems like the only way deal with it is in a very direct way. And that's making changes with the gear itself.

That said, I absolutely agree that room acoustics should be looked at. Its a win/win situation. Even if you are not able to fix the HF issue, you're still going to make your system sound better. Also, to add to the end of Mesch's post, a while back, The Audio Perfectionist Journal did an article on how to make your own room treatments. Basically, the most common material used to treat acoustics are made out of fibre glass. Its a very simple process. All you need to do is buy the rectangular fibreglass panels they sell at your average home improvement store, and cover them with a fabric that matches the room. The cost is very low and they work very well. Unfortunately, I don't have the article or I would post it.
Owens Corning also makes some good products for diy acoustic panels. 703, 705 I think.
Vjb, I think that Zd provided a very good response to my latest post. I also agree that it is likely the Paradigms are not to your liking, as they are bright with an 'aggressive’ tweeter. I owned the Studio 20s however had them mated to a Vincent 226 hybrid amp (tube linestage) which I felt leaned more toward the musical than analytical side. Not as bright IMO as Rotel amps I’ve heard.

While in the process of treating your room, you might also take your amp to dealers that have speakers of interest. You can hear the speakers as they sound driven by your amp, and also likely have a chance to compare them with another amp of different character. There are allot of very fine speakers at or below your stated budget for the 804s.

Good luck in your quest. Please keep us posted as to your progress.