You might try a used tube player or Meridian s/s if the presentation is too hot. But it sounds like what you want is a sub, not a new cd player. That would warm up the mids with better extension too.
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Try some tubes in the line up. The California Audio Lab Sigma I or II DAC are great buys with their single 12AX7 tube output. Or, go to a tube preamp and use the integrated as a separate amp. "Warmer" interconnects like Cardas Golden Cross Reference between the CD and the amp will alter the character of your sound as well.
A "wamer" CD goal could be a cry for a less harsh sounding DAC which is what the Sigmas provide. The cables are another nice tweak but by themselves may not be enough "warmth" you crave.
Try listening to some tubes and evaluate if they head you towards what you seek. I heard and slowly moved all the way to tubes - preamp, monoblocks, DAC, phono-stage...the tube "warmth" was seductive!
Merely getting a better CDP probably ought be your focus. A superior player might or might not necessarily sound 'warmer' per se, but it should offer improved resolution, extension, dimensionality, tone color, dynamics, and textural refinement, with less congestion, all of which should make it more involving and pleasant to listen to. The Thiels will reveal the quality of whatever they're fed, and to this end the integrated amp, and whatever player you choose, might benefit from addressing issues of power conditioning and/or power cords in the system if you haven't already.
But Wlutke is right in bringing up that since the little 1.6's (which I think sound great BTW) can't offer the most generous lower-frequency balance, even if you don't feel the want or need to experiment with subwoofers (and assuming your room isn't too big for these speakers), it sounds like you might at least consider revisiting the topic of speaker and listening chair positioning, because as he implies changing CDPs alone isn't going to affect this particular impression (tonal balance) as much by comparison. Thiels do require certain set-up parameters in terms of listening distance and distance to sidewalls if they're not to sound bright, so if you have any questions in this area you should let us know your layout.
Interesting difference of opinion concerning the Jolida. What about the Rega Planet? It seems to be one of the higher rated players?
The term "warmth" may be as subjective as "bright." What I find is that my system as currently configured is pretty unforgiving of many recordings. When they are well recorded, they sound great. Others sound downright harsh at times. I know the Thiel 1.6s must be matched carefully, and the Classe has really helped. Maybe a new CDP won't be the missing piece? Thanks for all your input.
I had a Bel Canto DAC2 that was very smooth sounding with very good bass. Or if you want a 1-box player then the Sony CDP-XA7ES. I recently listened to this Sony player and was really impressed how smooth it sounded(plus built like a tank). You should be able to get these well under 1k and this should be a pretty nice improvement over your Onkyo.
Forgive me for being a novice audiophile, but what is minimax?
I don't have an equipment rack. My components sit side-by side atop a TV cabinet that weighs about 200 lbs and is quite stable.
Perhaps an analogy will help: This morning I put a Blue Note Cd (Herbie Hancock) into my little Sony discman with Grado headphones. To hear Ron Carter's bass I turned on the "mega-bass" feature, and voila, it sounded great. Then I played the same music in my audio system; of course it has better sound stage and clarity of detail but it was lacking the presence and "oomph" in the bottom end. Unfornately, there is no "megabass" to switch on. Maybe this is what wlutke suggested above, and this is the nature of the CS 1.6 speakers. Would a subwoofer be the missing ingredient, rather than changing out my CD player? The Thiel SS1 costs more than my speakers, so that is a bit daunting. This may be a question for the speaker forum, but integrating all the pieces is certainly a challenge. Thanks again.
Try an Opera Consonance Linear or Reference CD 2. I've got the Reference Mk 2.2 and I found it outplayed the Unico which is tubed as well.
Audio Salon in Glasgow, UK rave about the 'linear' version - a non-upsampling DAC. Mine is the 2.2 Reference which upsamples. With balanced outputs and a good cable it sounds fantastic - great soundstage & lovely vinyl like sound.
Two dealers I've spoken to (and bought from) rate the Opera Consonance gear very highly.
I'd avoid Naim kit if you like a warm sound. Having a tubed output stage helps soften edges and works superbly for classical music in particular.
Also I'd be careful with cables - as ever they seem to make a huge difference. Certainly upgrading to JPS labs XLR cable makes a huge difference in my system - 'night and day'.
From what you just described, my recommendation to you as a "novice audiophile" is NOT to run out and buy a different CD player. Of course you may want to get a better CDP at some point, but this will have almost no bearing on your system's low frequency situation.
Listening to a portable through headphones with the bass boost engaged is not the way to judge accurate response, so if that is your subjective preference benchmark, you might be disappointed in this hobby. For better or worse, a speaker like a Thiel is designed to give flat response within its frequency range, so if a recording is bass-shy or if the treble is rolled off, that's the way it's going to sound, and audiophile preamps generally don't have tone controls to compensate. But even if you were to add an equalizer to the system, it could never duplicate the effect of your headphone rig.
As you surmise, the particular Thiel model you own is not designed to go all the way down in the bass (no small speaker does), and also won't exagerate the mid and upper bass instead for added "warmth". It's appropriate for smaller rooms, and listeners willing to live without the bottom 2.5 octaves being reproduced in full, who value its strengths elsewhere. This particular listening style and set of priorities is somewhat peculiar to one branch of the audiophile tree, and also dependent on the music being played. As you probably know, it wouldn't impress most kids who enjoy blasting hip-hop in their cars.
Whether it can give you Ron Carter is the question however. Integrating a sub for satisfactory results can be tricky. The Thiel subs probably would work fantastically with the 1.6, but as you note this seems a ridiculous proposition price-wise. Also, the Thiel subs are designed expressly to extend missing bass frequencies accurately -- not to 'goose' the whole lower end of the spectrum like a bass boost button, or to provide overt "warmth".
[Also, be aware that the word warmth has multiple meanings in audiophilia, not all of them having to do with frequency response per se. Prominent treble is considered to detract from warmth, as is a depressed lower midrange. Deep bass extension, but paradoxically also higher bass harmonic distortion and looser bass driver control, are typically thought of as adding warmth. Another meaning has to do with the harmonic signature imparted by gear in its reproduction of overtones. Anyway, this is why, when you ask about a warmer CDP, you won't necessarily get a solution to bass-shyness.]
What I'm wondering quite honestly is if you bought the wrong speakers. I'd appreciate you describing your room dimensions and listening tastes. Without this info, all you will get is all that you knew to ask for: pet recommendations for CD player shopping, rather than help with your problem.
Thankyou, Zaikesman, for such a thoughtful response. With 20/20 hindsight I might have chosen different speakers (an audio retail shop led me down this particular path, but that's a different story). My challenge now is upgrading around what I have, on a limited budget, but in such a way that the end result produces synergy.
My problem is probably best addressed by others who have the Thiel 1.6s and have a sense for balancing their strengths and limitations. (By the way, the Sony discman is not my reference for sound quality, just an analogy to commuinicate what I was trying to accomplish -- more bottom end on about half of my 500 or so CD recordings of jazz, many on small labels with less than pristine recording quality.)
After weighing all the earlier comments, I drove for an hour today to the nearest audio showroom. Unfortuantely, they did not have a Jolida CDP or other tube players to audition, but they did let me listen to a Velodyne subwoofer with some B&W 704s. I think the sub is what I really want next, as I can turn it on or up depending upon the nature of the recordings to add more low frequency response. Now my question is: which sub would be best with my system? The Classe that drives it is rated 150 watts/channel. My room is about 20 x 30 with a high ceiling. I have the Thiels about 12 feet apart and sit in an equilateral triangle to them. Even the salesman today agreed that my budget and needs probably don't justify $3000 for the Thiel SS1.
I'm thinking I will upgrade the CDP down the line (when the tooth fairy brings me more funds), but finding a sub that will work well with my existing system may get me back to the immediate goal of enjoying music instead of worrying about equipment. Any experience of adding a sub with these speakers? Need I be wary of crossover problems or boominess with less expensive subs?
So, thanks again. I'm learning.
This Onkyo CDP--it's a garden variety mass-market CDP like you'd get at Circuit City? If so, it may not be that your system needs more "warmth" as much as it needs to get rid of harsh or brittle "bad" digital sound. A used Cary 303-200 would do that for maybe $1200. Or a used Meridian 506 for maybe half that.
The bass is probably a separate issue. But if you listen mainly to CD's, & you have a mediocre CDP, "more bass" may not increase your satisfaction that much.
I'd say focus on a good CDP first, then maybe a good equipment rack. A used REL Strata III sub for maybe $900 might be a good idea later.
"My room is about 20 x 30 with a high ceiling."Aha! The good news is, your problem is identified. The bad news: upgrading your CDP isn't going take care of it. But no wonder you're here asking about ways to improve the sound.
Actually, the problem isn't your room -- that must be a great room. (Literally!) And it isn't the speakers, those are very good speakers. In fact, I'm not going to be so simplistic as to say the problem was the combination of the two, even though that's true.
The real problem lies (and I use that word advisedly) with the salesman who sold you that gear for that room. Either he neglected to ask the right questions that would have told him your needs, or he knew what he was getting you into, but chose instead to make an easier sale by catering to your stated budget and/or desire for compact gear (and, most likely, whatever brands/models you walked into the store positively-disposed toward from reviews and advertising). Either way he didn't earn his commission -- more like he saw you coming from jump street and pilfered it.
Anyway, this is where you are now: the 1.6's absolutely require a subwoofer to give anything like realistic response in your room. Which is not to say that adding one will cure everything you're hoing for, or that spending the same money (1.6's + sub) on a different pair of speakers (and not Thiels, fine as they are, or not new ones anyway) might not have been a better buy. But it's just the laws of physics which dictate that a pair of 6" woofer/mids -- even excellent ones with 3" voice-coils -- operating in cabinets with probably around 1.5 cubic feet of volume won't be adequate to drive circa 5,400-6,000 cubic feet of listening space (assuming a mere 9'-10' ceiling height, since you didn't specify other than to say "high") as the frequency descends.
And unlike some other small and small-woofered floorstanders or monitors, the 1.6, being a Thiel, doesn't have a shelved-down tweeter and a mid-bass hump to distract you from that reality (although to me the tweeter in the 1.6 doesn't sound quite as extended or detailed as those found in more costly Thiels, perhaps a wise and deliberate choice for this model). These are speakers that can sound great -- albeit still not with big balls in the low bass -- in rooms up to around 1,750 cubic ft. or so (example at the larger end of that scale: 12' x 18' x 8'). You can see the imperative -- since your room is at least 3X that volume, you should be having at least 3X the speaker in it.
Or use a subwoofer. I've actually auditioned the 1.6's in a room not far from the size of yours (in other words too big for the speakers), with and without a sub, and adding the sub can really help a lot. The one I heard them with was a smaller REL, but I'm not sure which model.
Steveaudio is probably right on target with this recommendation, for the reason that REL subs are designed to work strictly in "augmentation" mode, meaning they don't cross-over to the main speakers but simply add their LF response to them. The downside to this strategy is that it doesn't increase the volume level your small speakers can comfortably play at in a large room, so if you like to listen loud the 1.6's may still limit you in this area. The upside is that by augmenting rather than dividing the LF region between the sub and the mains, it will be much less difficult to get an acceptable transition between the two, because in your situation the 1.6's will need reinforcement in more than just the bottom 2 octaves.
By running a sub like an REL, which overlaps the mains through the mid-bass and *subtly* continues into the upper bass/lower midrange, dependent on how you set the contols and subject to adjustment with different recordings, you'll be able to add not just extension but also some of the warmer tonal balance that you are looking for. This won't be without some compromises -- for instance, it would easy to mess up stuff like male vocals or acoustic piano this way if abused, and certain aspects of reproduction will probably be a bit less natural no matter how judiciously the sub is adjusted because of how much you'll be asking it to do in this case -- but the advantages will almost certainly outweigh the disadvantages by a useful margin if done right. The only other caveat I can see is that a sub with a remote control might be most welcome in your situation, but I'm not sure which companies offer that. (Again, I think the Thiel sub would probably be outstanding for you, but don't think it makes as much sense in your situation unless you were upgrading the speakers -- to bigger Thiels in specific -- as well, though you could always take the incremental approach.)
However, I will disagree with Steveaudio about priorities. To me -- and I say this as a Thiel owner, who has gone from mass-market to mid-fi to high-end digital in my time with them -- you're probably better off getting the sub first if you're going to keep these speakers and continue using them in this room. I don't have any experience with your particular CDP, but most of the mass-market players from the past 15 years that I have heard tend to err on the 'warmer' side in terms of overall tonal balance, even if their treble presentation is not refined in and of itself, and their low bass may lack extension, control and dynamics.
In other words, when you do upgrade your Onkyo, don't be too surprised if you find out that it wasn't significantly thinning-out the balance, as much as perhaps doing things like flattening the soundstage, diminishing tonal and dynamic contrasts, glossing over fine detail, lacking extension at the frequency extremes, and giving a less defined, more amorphous presentation. And I'd say to save gear racks for last, if at all, since it sounds like you've got your stuff on a stable base, and besides which that whole topic is small potatoes compared to what your main necessity is at the moment. But my take is that you won't enjoy a new CDP nearly as much until you address the subwoofer first.
One more thing: I suspect you still may need to play around with set-up, sub or no sub. With the speakers 12' away and 12' apart, I imagine they're on the 20' (short) wall, firing down the 30' length of the room, and probably at least somewhat angled-in toward your ears? And that you don't have any acoustic surface treatments or stand-up damping devices? Please let us know about this, as well as your ceiling (height and construction), and how damped the room is in general (rugs? wall hangings? lots of furniture? or not -- lots of windows? much bare floor? concrete or brick anywhere?), and how far away from the wall your speakers are -- maybe further tuning is in order.
Wow, if only I had you guys for advice in December! Unfortunately, I didn't know about Audiogon then. To sum up, I talked to four different sales reps at three high-end audioshops and remarkably none asked about the size of the room -- they asked what my budget was and then showed me what they sold: B&W, Thiel, Martin Logans and one other type I've forgotten. I chose the Thiels because in the showroom with some of my favorite CDs, they sounded the best. I bought the Onkyo at a high-end audio shop 10 years ago, so it is not quite Circuit City breeding.
To my wife's consternation, I immediately upgraded from a smallish NAD receiver and bought the Classe (enter Audiogon) to get more power and current to drive the 1.6s. Actually the speakers are positioned on each side of a brick fireplace, three feet out from back wall and toed in a bit. So they fire across a 20 foot distance at one end of the room. As Zaikesman surmised, it is a "greatroom," and the long side actually opens to a dining room/kitchen. The ceiling is about 12 feet high with beams and exposed wood, plus a hardwood floow with an area rug. There are large windows on two sides of the listening area. I just bought floor length cellular blinds for the glass doors on one side to soften the sound reflections. Furniture rings the walls, with no obstructions between me and the speakers. I have played a lot with speaker positioning, starting with eight feet apart and gradually moving them out. The room is so large that they sound best at 12 feet to my ears.
In reviewing past subwoofer threads last night it looked like a REL Strata-3 would be a good option, but I couldn't find one for sale on Audiogon or anywhere else in the US. I should probably begin a new thread in the speakers forum to ask for experience of the Thiel 1.6 with the REL, Velodyne, and any other subs that cost less than the Thiel SS1. If money were no object (I wish), the SS1 would be at the top of my list. I really can't afford to sell what I have at a loss and start all over, particularly if the addition of a sub will solve my problem. Thanks again to all.
Thanks for the room description. Incredible, ain't it, that at three different shops no one asked about this. Along with a speaker's intrinsic response, the speaker/room interaction is really the most sonically determinative aspect of the entire system (any system).
The window treatment is a good idea, and it could allow you to aim the speakers a little more straight ahead, which would also reduce the perceived treble, though perhaps at the cost of some imaging precision. It might help to do something to damp or break up the reflection from the wall behind your chair as well. Unfortunately though, in addition to reflecting treble, windows leak bass, which the blinds won't affect (the fireplace might do so as well). It's probably good that you're set up firing across the short dimension of the room, which I was going to suggest if you weren't. I hope the area rug lies between you and the speakers. Having a wide placement separation between Thiels is not uncommon. Your listening distance is about the max recommended, but that's appropriate to your room size. Having the speakers 3 ft. away from the front wall is pretty standard, though moving them a little closer to the wall could increase the perceived lower frequency balance a bit.
But basically it sounds like you're working with what you've got, and the necessary evil (just kidding) of getting a sub is the next step, unless you were to change speakers (and even then you might still want a sub in this situation). It's no mystery to me that you preferred the sound of the Thiels in the store. The 1.6's aren't very demanding of power, though your room is, but I'm sure they appreciated the upgrade in amplification quality. You might try getting the outrigger stands if you don't already have them, as they could help slightly with the bass by increasing the footprint stability of the cabinets and hence LF wavelaunch. Best of luck with blending in a subwoofer and soliciting more advice on a new thread (lots of folks around here know more about subs than me :-), and let us know what happens, and when you get that CDP too.
I totally missed this: "My room is about 20 x 30 with a high ceiling."
When I first started getting into "high end" audio, about 10 years ago (after years of owning a NAD/JBL "mid-fi", to be generous, system), I bought drastically better speakers, slightly used B&W M802SIII's. I then spent a few years (in retrospect, needless) frustration as I was so clueless about how much power they needed, among other things. Many visits to various "high end" audio salons in the metro-Boston area were almost less-than-useless in figuring out what other components I needed.
I still think you should consider upgrading the CDP--I can't imagine a 10 y.o. Onkyo is doing justice to the Theils & Classe amp. Seriously, I think a Meridian 506 for $600 perhaps (?), or a new Jolida would improve your system a lot for low$$. If the front end is mediocre it almost doesn't matter what else you do IMO.
The good news: a used sub & excellent used CDP might run you $2K roughly for both.....
I just wanted to add to what Zaikesman so accurately posted above. Adding a subwoofer to my system was one of the best/cost effective moves I could have made. With some caveats: They are almost impossible to audition anywhere except at home. The first dealer I went to was nice enough. He had 5 subs in my price range all lined up for my private audition and didn't bat an eye as I put them thru the tryout at very high volume. But he just did not seem to get what I was looking for and kept steering me toward the Velodyne that HE liked and/or owned. I went home and called Velodyne and explained my wants and needs to one of their technicians who was extremely indignant about the "advise" that their salesman gave me. He recommended a model in my price range and another dealer somewhat nearby. That dealer recommended the same model as the technician out of 18 or so models (what were the odds of that?) so I bought it. I did get a 30 day return guarantee. It did take about a month of moving it around and adjusting the controls to get it to lock in, but once it did, it improved EVERYTHING. My point is to consider calling the manufacture(s) of the subs you may be considering and tell them what YOU want to hear. In my case they were very knowledgeable and helpful. Finally, don't be afraid of sub-setup procedures. It's not work, it's actually fun! And well worth the effort. And when you get it right - and you will - you'll see what I'm talking about. Best of luck, Matt......
Just an update. I did buy a sub, the REL B-3. It is remarkable. The sound stage is much deeper and articulated. The bass is wonderful. I had little problem integrating, setting the cross over at about 50. For some CDs the sub volume needs to be turned up a bit, but it has made the 1.6s perfect for my room and my system. I would highly recommend this combination. Down the road I will add a better CDP, but right now I am a happy camper. Thanks for all the input.
Audphile1, what disc would you suggest. that sounds like a good idea concerning a test CD. Where can I order such a thing?
As regards inputs, I am only using CDs. I am still tweaking the sub, best results vary a bit by CD. I must say, however, to any and all owners of 1.6s, this sub is the missing piece. I considered Velodyne, Rel R-305 and R505. To my ears, the Britania series is more nimble and responsive for music, while I played a Harry Potter DVD last night and the effects were also pretty amazing.
What it adds to the entire range in terrms of depth and warmth has been surprising. The highs have become liquid on many recordings, taking the edge off the detail. the soundstage is more pronounced. I inititally set the crossover on the low side for fear of muddying up the Thiels, but no such effect so I have been nudging it up to about 60. I have the sub volume set in the twelve o'clock position much of the time, unless the bass is really shy on the recording, as in the above-mentioned Blue Note reissues from the 1960s, then I bump it up a bit.
I put Steely Dan's Gaucho on and the bottom end just pops -- no fatigue after listening for long periods.
The August issue of Absolute Sound has a nice review of the Rel Britannia series. I am surprised there has not been more discussion of it.
I'm not sure if it's been suggested to you, but how about- considering analog? A good Rega P3 or similar table,e.g., a Music Hall, perhaps used; a cheap but effective cartridge, and a good affordable phono stage (all possible for 1K or not much more) plus some good ebay used lps, locally-found used ones, etc., could be a wonderful shift. Reasonably good condition lp's can often be found for substantially less than lp's
I have Thiel 2.3's w/ Ayre electronics, and while some problems I've had w/ brightness are due to the limitations of my listening/living room (under-damped), the bulk of my dissatisfaction w/ the tonal balance disappears when I play analog (which in the price range you're discussing, should kill cd sound in most respects). Much of the problem, I think, is due to the nature of the cd medium, which I hasten to add, I do frequently use as well (30-40% of listening), so I'm not simply an "analog partisan." If you go to the high-end shows nowadays, you'll see that vinyl often predominates, but most high-end folks agree that vinyl is in most (emotional) ways still a superior medium.
Check it out, if you haven't already. Acoustic sounds is one of the best sites for a comprehensive analog source- though their heavy vinyl is expensive, there's plenty of good, used, cheap vintage vinyl out there (speak w/ Clark or Stelley, their analog experts, for affordable solutions); also Music Direct, also excellent, though I'm slightly less fond of them. Seriously, analog can do some amazing things for your system, and moreover, your listening pleasure and passion about music.