switching to a tube phone pre might well move you in the direction you seek, and a tube amp (and preamp) would also probably help. IME, the EAR 834P sounds pleasant, but turns everything to mud, and more or less requires expensive NOS tubes to sound decent. You might miss the detail of the SS Slee. It is probably not the weakest link in your current system.
I think a tube amp would have the greatest & most immediate effect, but it is hard to recommend anything without knowing what speakers you are using. Tube amps excel at creating that holographic imaging effect that you seek.
Speaker placement is essential to get the "image suspended in midair" sound. It seems to me you probably haven't nailed your speaker placement yet.
Tube amplification will enhance the three dimensional sound once you've found the correct speaker positioning, but your speakers must be designed to work with a tube amp, otherwise the result will be unsatisfactory.
What speakers do you own?
Tvad is right on the money. You need to have speakers, proper positioning, and an appropriate room for the best imaging. This implies also amplification/preamplification that is appropriately mated to the speakers. That said, I find that having tubes in the entire process (preamp + amp +/- source) raises the probability of holographic imaging, with the tube amp probably being more important than the tube preamp.
Speaker placement is essential to get the "image suspended in midair" sound. It seems to me you probably haven't nailed your speaker placement yet
He,he,he not all problems in audio can be solve instantly by replacing SS amps or preamps with tube amps or preamps.
Experiment cheap first (speaker positioning, proper TT set up, etc.). ....then go SET he,he,he
Anothr nod to Tvad on this one.
Try speaker placement and room treatment. Divide the room in 5ths. Place speakers in first 1/5 and your listening chair in the last 1/5 section. Make sense? Then take a hand hald mirror and while sitting in your listening chair, have a friend place the mirror on the wall near the right speaker. Then move the mirror along the wall until you can see the speaker in the mirrow while sitting in your chair. This is the first order sound wave-put a wall covering there. For better results, cont along the wall until you see the left speaker in the mirror-this is the second order wave-use wall treatment there too. Then do other side. You will be amazed at the results.
These are all very helpful responses. I thought the imagining might be unobtainable 'until' I got tube amps based on some of my reading, so its reassuring the hear that they can only help it in the end.
That said, I am using Boston Acoustic VR3s for speakers. They're home theater floorstanding, and I imagine they aren't built for the kind of music demands I was seeking. I'm considering trying to start a separate system for two channel with some cheap (>=$500, <$1000) speakers. Monitors and Magnepans seems to get a lot of praise for their 'holographic' imaging. Of course, I'm trying very hard to identify if there's an intersection between my budget and audio goals at the moment, and also how best to obtain those goals.
Also, thanks Tbromgard, since I have never heard that treatment trick before and will have to try it. I thought I had played around with placement/*fuax* treatment until my head was spinning, but I guess people aren't exaggerating when they talk about how much you need to play around with it.
Superapplekid, I've heard some Boston Acoustics (a model similar to the VR3 I think) and, at least with the setup I heard them in, I wasn't too impressed with the sound or the soundstaging.
If you have a relatively small room, and you're after holographic imaging, you can get some used Totem Arro's in your price range. They will present you with the most three-dimensional imaging you've ever heard. If you get tubes in the amplification, then you'll be even better. My experience was best with a Jolida 302b integrated amp with these speakers. It's hard to bear for the price.
Other options would include some high-quality monitors, such as JMLab Electra 906, PSB stratus mini, or Paradigm Studio 20's. (Hey, I did include at least one non-Canadian speaker!) My experience is that all other things being equal, the monitors tend to soundstage better than floorstanders at the same price.
I do recommend that you start with your speakers, and then with the positioning within the room.
I have a pair of VR 4's (use them for the rear channels on HT). I kniw what Sufentanil means about the soundstage but I have a pair of Paradigm Atoms at work and have managed to ave them image well and throw a believable, holographic soundtage, so it is possible with entry level speakers. Just takes time, paitience, a little knowledge and luck.
If you are going to change speakers I have to give a nod to Sufentail's Totem Arro recommendation. They produce a 3D soundstage with ease. Just be aware that they have some compromises, mainly in the areas of dynamics, ability to play loud, and bass. I was very happy with my Arros and a modest tube integrated until I felt the need for more bass extension, scale, and sheer volume.
Buy a copy of Jim Smith's "Get Better Sound" book for $30-50. It has one of the best step by step explanations about speaker placement and its effects that I have ever read. This is a very low cost way to get you moving in the right direction. It will be fun.
The room/speaker interface is what matters here and then the specific components.
Lot of nods to the Totem Arros, which weren't on my radar until now. Also, I'm glad to hear the experience people have had with my speakers, it gives me a good idea of what to expect with them. I'll have to check out Jim Smiths book, as well as some Totems (which seem within my price range).
As far as a lack of bass, dynamics, and volume - right now these aren't my primary concerns, and it seems most budget speakers that are great at imagining have to make sacrifices in these areas. Certainly, the dream is to one day have a setup that can adequately do everything, but, depending on the amount of bass and dynamics sacrificed, I may be able to live without those aspect for now.
Hi TVAD (and others),
I'm with you that speaker placement is key to imaging; I have found for various/most speakers that the Cardas room positioning formula can work very well for dialing-in the best imaging location. However, I'm wondering what your thoughts might be on a speaker such as the Klipsch Cornwall, where supposedly the speakers were designed to work well in corners and near/against the back wall (ie, CornWallish)? Do you think such speakers really should go in the corners/against the back wall and do you think they can yield their best imaging with such positioning? Thanks, Hi_Hifi
Just listening to the answers in this forum tells me that people havn t really seen h.i. I saw it once at a guys house and have not seen it since after looking for 15 years.
Jfg,Bingo! It takes everything to get it. I was at a high end emporium where they had top of the line Thiel speakers and ARC electronics. You could reach out and touch the performers, the instruments occupied stationary positions in mid air. Some guy came in and wanted to audition a Rotel amp. When the ARC amp was replaced by the Rotel, it all disappeared; even though you still had top of the line front end and speakers.
While there is no one way to get it, everything has to be "high end" all the way.
Not sure what cartridge you are using but I would be looking at the turntable / cartridge before I started making changes in the rest of the system.
I was recently at a local dealer and listened to his high end system which consisted of some very nice PSB speakers and a bunch of Macintosh components. The turntable was a relatively inexpensive unit with a moving magnet cartridge. I was appalled at the lack of focus in the image and strongly suspect it was due to the turntable / cartridge.
If you have a good retailer in your area I suggest you take your turntable in and try it in another system that you know images well. If that is to your satisfaction you could use the same procedure with other components in the system to find the offender.
The Planar 3 can take you to a higher level, if and only if, you have all the tweaks recommended for it.
Prima Luna Prologue One is a good bet for an integrated.
Agree on speaker placement, some quality inexpensive gear might be the Primaluna mentioned above, plus Tekton M-Lore ($649.00 pr.) see Stereo Mojo Review. Nice!