Walking that fine line: What would you do ?

I recently installed an amp on loan from a friend in one of my systems. We swapped amps just to "compare notes". I had an amp that he wanted to hear and vice-versa. The fact that we are a couple of States apart makes it hard to do first hand comparisons with each other, so we have to be selective, especially with amps. Between the shipping costs and the potential damage, this is the first time that we've done this. If we were both happy with the results, we were simply going to swap amps and compensate the differences in cash.

As it turns out, i like the amp quite a bit. It seems to be a good match for the preamp and speakers that i'm using it with. There is only one "problem". Whereas the system has always sounded very musical with good accuracy ( hard to achieve ), i've now moved up a notch on the "accuracy" scale. I'm now hearing a little deeper into the discs. While most would call this a step in the right direction in terms of being "revealing", i'm beginning to think that it is "annoying" and "distracting". Don't get me wrong, the amp / system sound quite good, maybe the best it ever has. It is not "etched" or "analytical" by any means. I could use all of the superlative's to describe what i'm hearing, but i've now got one nagging problem.

I can now hear just how much the engineers are "twistin' knobs" on several recordings that previously sounded "warm and sweet" i.e. very enjoyable with no distractions. One in particular is Diana Krall's Love Scenes. On some songs, you can easily hear the faders come up as she begins to sing and drop down as she stops. This is evident as the noise floor increases and you hear more hiss. When the mics are open, you have less of a "black background" between musical notes from the instruments. On some of the other songs, they simply leave the mic open most of the time and you hear hiss throughout most of it. On a few others, the leave the mic open, then fade it in a few spots, open it back up, etc... Some of this was obvious before, but not anywhere near the extent that it is now.

While most of us would not consider this a big deal, it kind of gets annoying after a while. To me, it's kind of like looking for a smaller hidden picture within a much larger picture. Once you find it, it is all that you can concentrate on. How you could've missed it for all that time is beyond you. So it is with this system now. In other words, these "small details" now distract me from the "big performance" taking place.

Has anybody else run into a similar situation and what did you do ? I'm open to suggestions as i'm kind of twisting and turning on this one. I like the amp a lot, BUT.... Sean
It sounds like you took a step towards analytical because that's what you describe yourself doing. I got back to musical by changing speakers (smoother) and preamp (purer). Enjoy the ride!
Well Thanks to all the big hitters in this thread I have now gone back and listened a bit more closely to the Alison Kraus CD in question as well as some other music.....Now all I hear is the music fading in and out! I can't hear the music anymore. It's "well there it goes again, so that is what Sean was talking about" Or there's sugarbrie's echo"
I have to learn to stay away from threads like this so I could remain blissfully ignorant of everything except the music. The only problem is I think it is too late!
PS excellent thread nonetheless
I would submit that almost any system that is relatively revealing will present you with the same. I have several Krall CD's and I find them to be mastered the same way. I am not a recording engineer, so I will use the term "Faders" that you used earlier. I can easily hear the noise floor (in the form of hiss) go up and down on many different CD's when someone starts or stops singing. I think your gear is probably fine, simply more revealing of the content on the disc. I personally would not go backwards, to remedy this, I would purchase (albeit expensive) audiophile level discs (i.e. Groove Note Gold) where the same material is available. I have Jacintha Autumn Leaves Gold and I have found to a lesser extent the same issue. I will say that since I gave up my SACD player in lieu of my DIO, I have found that Hybrid (Redbook/SACD) sound better than there Redbook only counterparts. I am sure it is because the original master was encoded using DSD and then converted to 16/44.1. This seems to sound better than strait redbook. Anyway, just some additional thought on the subject matter.

I suspect the fader effect referred to above is the engineer "gain riding" the vocal track. The engineer has worked with the singer to increase or lower the signal gain (volume) in anticipation of what the singer will do. The purpose for using this technique is to maintain a relatively constant vocal level. An alternative technique would have been to use a compressor/limiter to automatically control the signal level. Either technique can work, but most engineers would consider the manual gain riding a more "purist" method.

Recording engineers are for the most part magicians. In popular music they are trying to create the illusion of a real performance. Engineers take individual performances recorded at different times and frequently in different studios and electronically manipulate them so that it is plausible for someone listening to believe a real-time performance actually occurred. When performed by a skillful engineer, the electronic trickery is close to invisible. In less skillful hands its kinda' like seeing the mic boom in a movie. BTW, you don't need a high resolution system to hear these "flaws". If you know what to listen for you can hear them on any $1,000 system.
Good Luck Sean. I'll just sympathize with your situation, I recently bought Vandersteen 5 speakers, and my whole system took a tilt toward the "very revealing" (I wouldn't call it analytical though), and at first I was disappointed, but now I'm finding that on good quality recordings, I like the V5s better than my previous 3As, but on less well recorded stuff, the 3As were definitely warmer, richer and more forgiving.

I finally just relaxed and am working my way through my CD collection and finding new "gems" all the time, but also finding CDs that are no longer musical compared to the 3As. I've decided that this is the price to be paid for a definitely higher resolution system.

On Diana Krall's latest CD, I can definitely hear the tape hiss you mention, but am willing to live with it for the higher quality music during the "body" of the songs. Like me, you just have to decide what sonic characteristics are most important to you. Me? I'm keeping the V5s :>).

I've enjoyed reading the high quality responses regarding Sean's problem in this thread-- thanks everyone. Again, good luck and Cheers. Craig.