The vicissitudes of listening to classical music


I'm a novice. I recently purchased a decco int. amp and usb/dac and era d5's. I am using a Mac mini. I've been using this set-up for two weeks. The sound is starting to become more dynamic. This is on the desktop, nearfield listening to cd's, internet radio and rips.

My problem is that when I listen to symphonic music everything is garbled during heavy orchestration. Solo piano, guitar, string quartets sound good except strings in the high register can be grating. Also, I find myself listening to a softer passage at a nice volume and when the brass and strings and percussion kick in I must always turn down. Opera is a problem as well.

I wish the mids were warmer, too.

Since there are area contraints on the desktop I thought a hifi integrated amp might suit my needs. More power to even out the louder passages and tame the high end. The decco is 50wpc. I would like to pay maye $1500- for the amp. I would buy another usb/dac.

I think the speakers are fine. I don't want anything bigger on the desk, anyway.

I'm in a small room approx. 12'x14'. I purchased the d5's hoping the bass at lower listening levels would work. The room is somewhat open on one side. I usually listen at moderate volume levels.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.


What are you listening to? Low bitrate MP3s? Streaming audio? If so, these are the culprits. You need more data.

I'm listening to flac files but mostly cd's and streaming audio at 128k on the average. Maybe just a power amp like the ps audio a-100 would help and use the decco as a preamp.

Cayin tube integrated amps are pretty good and should be within your price range. I would start with a tube integrated and may be change the dac later on.
Also, is there a wall behind the speakers? If so, experiment with a piece of dense fabric(something like a throw or a blanket) hung on the wall behind the speakers. This may minimize the midrange fatigue. If it works, you will need to think about what you will use as a permanent solution.
For $1500, you could get yourself a killer headphone setup. My experience with headphones suggests that sound quality of headphones compared to hifi is roughly 10:1 - a $1000 headphone setup is as good as a $10,000 hifi setup. You lose out on the imaging and the space, but you probably aren't getting very much if you have your speakers on your computer desk anyway.

Trouble is, a $1500 headphone setup will reveal any upstream flaws. You really need to feed it the best source possible.
lemme get this straight... you want quality sound with symphonic digital recordings and you can spend $1500? ditch the toys and get an oppo cdp, affordable int tube amp, and see what you get then. if it still sucks, get some better speakers. i am unfamiliar with yours so i cannot say, but be realistic here. call m a snob but classical music needs more to accurately reproduce than any desktop pc system i ever heard. jmo. ps i love classical music too and it took me yrs to firure out it demands a quality stand alone systm to fully appreciate for any length of listening time, even near field.
Oh yes, I forgot to mention in my above post - I am a classical music listener too. I listen to everything from soloists to pipe organ to lieder to massive orchestral works. This type of music is extremely demanding on a hi-fi system and ALL of them, without exception, fail. I have heard very expensive speakers, including my own, and none of these systems can do it all. I may prefer vocals on one system but find it falls flat with orchestral works. Or prefer orchestra on another system, and find the vocals sound awful.

Plenty of systems can make sounds, and your brain does the rest and turns it into music. I can listen to music in my car, or on my iPod, and it does not diminish my enjoyment one bit. However, if I want to listen deep into music, I need my hi-fi system. Sometimes I have the score in front of me as well - it really fills you in on what the recording has failed to capture.

In any case, I have learnt to become less demanding and have stopped trying to recreate the live experience. These days, if the system is revealing enough for me to hear what the musicians are doing, I am happy. It all depends on what you want - if you want to analyse deep into the music AND do it on a budget, get headphones.
Classical music is the most demanding sound for any system.
To truly judge the quality of any system, play classical.
It may well be your set up is doing the best it can, but your hearing needs a better system.
I was listening to a rinky-dink system just 4 weeks ago. I never thought internet radio streaming was going to satisfy my need for quality audio but the array of classical stations is appealing.

I appreciate the feedback. I know it's impossible to get hi-end on the desktop. I just want something with some weight and clarity that will bring me into the music.

I want to rip some audio. Not a lot. I'll use aiff. I want to listen to cd's and have that great soundstage and enough power so I can listen to a symphony and not adjust the volume for different passages. Good, clean power and desktop speakers.


check this out for solution:

1)get a Squeezebox SB3(if you have a router). You can even use it wired with ethernet cable.

2) Sell your Drecco integrated and get a standalone, dedicated 2-ch amplifier, such as McCormack DNA-1 Deluxe, McCormack DNA-0.5 Delux(cheaper) or even one of the old Pass Labs pure Class A amps. You should be able to pick any of these up at under $1k.

3) Keep your speakers for now.

You will have to rip music to your hard drive(if it has not enough capacity, get an external USB drive...they're cheap, plus you can use losless format to rip because you will have more space to utilize on your disk drive).

What you will have with this system is a very good, smooth sounding amplifier that will properly drive your speakers and won't compress the dynamics and soundstage, awesome internet radio, digital music off your hard drive, volume controlled by squeezebox with remote. All this should total to what you wanted to spend on the integrated alone or even less. The dedicated 2-ch amp can be stored under your desk or wherever you want, you will run a pair of RCA interconnects from SB3 to amp(something like RCAs should be more than enough) and speker cables to your monitors.

if I were you, this is how I would set up my desktop system.
Thanks for the advice. I'm exploring the possibilities mentioned. Also, the dialogue acted as a sprignboard. Too bad I can't swim.

Belle Cose,

Jack- The Decco is a very versatile unit and as you know can be used as a preamp, which might just be the real strength of this product. Digital amps can be tricky. Depending on your taste and based on the statement about the lack of sweet midrange sound, you may want to lean toward tubes for power. For an amp in your price range ($1350 new and even cheaper on the Gon), I think the Rogue Atlas would be a perfect mate to the D5/Decco combination.

One thing you have with the Era's is they are not the most efficient or speediest speakers made and the Decco's digital power may be a bit less refined and a tad lean to make them push as much air as they are capable of. You could consider a higher dB speaker, however I do like the sound of both the D4 and the D5’s and have personally auditioned both of them with the Atlas and let me tell you they match up very, very nicely.

During my audition, various people walking into the store came into “my” room and 2 of them bought Era speakers based on this exact set up. The Era’s are good, but paired with the Atlas they are excellent!

Although the Atlas is rated at 55 WPC, this is tube power which is much more deceptive than digital or SS power. As high quality, well priced amps go, the Rogue Atlas is probably as good as you will get at or near this price and I do like that it is made in the USA. The other thing to consider is popping in a quad set of JJ KT77’s which will pump up the watts to about 70 WPC, although I think a new Atlas may now come stock with those tubes.

Paired with the Decco as a preamp which gives you the built in DAC, I think you will find this to be a very nice match up. Ultimately the addition of the ERA Sub 8 will round out the package very nicely.

The Rogue Atlas at its price range is a huge bargin and now that the dollar is falling like a rock into the deepest depths of the ocean, buying Made in USA can be a very good thing!