What must I correct to get the perfect sound?


I just built my first stereo!! I'm 21, and a huge noobie.. and I really need some help. My system still doesn't sound 'perfect', and I have a few theories as to what it may be that I hoped I could run by you. Something needs to be changed....

The highs are too crisp, in fact they're harsh when loud, especially on distorted music, while the lows are not crisp enough, and the sound just isn't filling up the room. While acoustic instruments expecially brass sound great, a band such as Nin sounds thin.. their tunes are not done justice here, and I miss the pounding drums of Tool. I want the system to be capable of making heavy music sound heavy. Drums are especially light.

I am considering a new room arrangement, but while that would probably help, I still get the impression that there might be technical issues.

Okay, here's what I've got..
Cambridge Azur 640H Cd Player
Cary SLP-80 Tube Preamp
Nakamichi PA-7
Original Legacy Focus Speakers
Music Wave Super Transparant Cable
XLO HT Pro Interconnects

and I even have an old floorplan which I adapted to my new setup so you can get an idea of how the acoustics in my room are. There aren't many soft furnishings or curtains, there is, however, a computer and some other junk sitting in front of the corner speaker, these things along with the bed, I assume are deadening the bass a little bit... and the walls along with the tv and computer monitor sitting in the way I assume do not help to soften the highs.

Current Arrangement:

Future Arrangement:

I'm hoping that the new room setup will help, but I still think my system itself could be improved.

So, I need some audio tech guru advice..................

The speakers sport three 12' woofers each. They are 4ohms. They could handle 500wpc, but apparantly my Nak only feeds them about 320wpc. Okay, please bear with me.. First Question: I checked the back of the Preamp and the Amp, I didn't see any mention of Ohms or any way of changing anything relating to Ohms, but I have found mention on the internet that the Preamp's Ohm output should match with the speakers' (or else undue wear could affect the tubes, have you heard of this?) and could the sound by affected by setting the preamp and amplifier to match with the speakers' Ohm rating? Second question: Could the mellow low end when playing at high volume (just under the point when the Amp clips and auto-mutes) be because while the amp is capable of powering the smaller woofers, these big woofers aren't getting sent what they need? If I added a second amplifier, or consigned my Nak to you to be replaced with, say, one capable of 500wpc, would that do it? My lack of technical knowledge stops me from knowing for sure, I guess what I'm wondering is if reaching higher volume levels with big woofers is the most "draining" to an amplifier, as opposed to powering smaller woofers...then again, I wonder whether big woofer "drain" in the first place, I mean, shouldn't the output be balanced at all times? Perhaps when pushed hard to play heavy lows there is an exception to this rule?

Thirdly, could the speakers' four 12' woofers and two 12' mid-woofers just be designed to be mellow? There is (almost) enough volume to the bass for most listening situations, in other words it sounds almost balanced... but they certainly do not rock. I'm not a dumb bass-head, but some music is just meant to rock the air around you, or you're missing out on what's supposed to be fun about it. Are these speakers just balanced thin on the bass, and bright, by design? I never would have expected that looking at these big woofers they put on them. At this point, buying a stand-alone subwoofer seems like it would be unnessecary.

So, the thing is, when I turn the dial on my preamp up, I don't want the mids and treble to deafen me, I just want the music heavy..

If I had more power I could just crank them, and if I bought an EQ, then I could tame the highs.. but I suppose I don't have to explain to you why i'm hesitant about adding that to the music, although if it could be switched to passive mode I could only use it when I need it. Then again.. these are big speakers and so I'm hoping that there is a less major change I could make to the system, again.. thinking about the ohms ratings and the matter of pushing this amplifier so much (by the way, is that bad for the amp?)

I also suspected this British Cd Player of not being the ideal machine to play heavy tunes.. I did notice a difference when switching from my computer, but I'm assuming that was mostly the lack of coloration from my gaming sound card, as well as some extra crispness from better interconnects. I do appretiate the extra clarity, especially when I turn it up, but it is harsher.. anyway, that's not REALLY the Cd Players fault, is it? Yeah, and I also considered the sound problem could be partly due to worn out tubes in my preamp.

So.. thank you for reading all of that! As you can see I'm trying my darndest to figure out what needs to be corrected here. I realize this was a very, very long email, but I need the opinion of someone with a lot of technical knowledge all of this stuff works and I would really appretiate your help. I know that I look like a rich kid with a big room and a pool table etc, but I'm really not and I'm on a tight budget here.

Best Regards,
You're 21 and you want "perfect" sound? Welcome to the hunt.
Take a look at some of the upper-end systems here and ask the owners if they have perfect sound.
I suggest you sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
I don't think you are really looking for perfect sound. What you are asking for is decent bass, which is a reasonable goal. I looked at your plans, and it's a little hard to tell much. But you said there aren't a lot of soft srufaces in the room. Do you have much carpet? Is your couch completely upholstered, or is it a modern style metal frame type thing? Are there any curtains? If not, you may need more soft surfaces, to suck up the excess mid and hi frequency energy. Soft surfaces don't affect bass nearly as much as they affect higher frequencies. These sounds may be just bouncing around your room. I expereinced this recently when I bought a new toy - a djembe,a type of African drum. It makes 2 sounds a deep resonant "DOUM" and a high metallic "Bek". In a normal room it sounds fine, but downstairs, in an empty room with no curtains or carpet, the high frequencies completely drown out the lows.
If your room looks like the trendy industrial loft, I'd guess that's the main culprit.
If you decide to EQ, get a Behringer DEQ2496. It is hard to hear any negative effects, even in a very high-end system, and they are dirt cheap, even new. The benefit of an even response will far outweigh any minor loss of resolution.
Pssst, you wanna buy some perfect sound forever? I have some silver discs to sell you.

Actually, I would guess it would be your cables. 'Super Transparent' often times translates into 'bright' and/or 'grainy'.

Try some Cardas cables.

If I recall correctly, the Focus speakers have some switches on the back to adjust for room corrections. Have you played with the switches? Tried to find the right mix?

If you happen to find the perfect sound, let me know. I've been looking for it for 30 years. :)

Ya neeeeeed suma dem magic pebbles!
Hey boy come over to the white ran for some rockin hard bass with smooth highs...

but seriously I am bass head also and those recordings are harsh. I've heard you're speakers and they are hard on top but they have insane bass to image. They have to be away from the back wall. 2-3 foot because of the rear port. don't worry about your amp power or speakers as they are well matched. 500-1000watts will barely raise your system 3dbp (doubling power only yields 3dB increase) so I would recommend a Velodyne DD18 or Some large subwoofer for rock/trash/tool etc. so you can rock the bass without Killing yourself on the top end. PM me if you want to discuss volume and quality without killing your budget. you have done quite well so far!

The transparent will hit harder than Cardas cables. Cables will not solve this problem.
Look at the tubes in the pre.First make sure they are good and biased accordingly.My guess this is the culprit right there.How big is your room?The Legacy's do need to be out from the rear wall 2-3 feet as others have said.I have the 20/20 focus and are not harsh at all.Run them off a Butler
TDB2250 with excellant results.All switches in the back in the up position.As a pre I just use my B&k AVR 307 and a
Pioneer 59 avi universal as a source.Reality cables,in a
24 by 24 ft room.They need room to breath bro.Maybe not the best match of gear either.I have no need for a sub as they pump out enough bass to shake the house.It's not so much the amount of watts you throw at them but the quality of the watts is most important.They need an amp with current to handle those 12 in. woofers.Of coarse your room is a whole nother story.Play around,tweek positioning them,swap out the pre or replace the tubes and lets hear back from you,good luck pal.
You need to correct your expectations, of course.
Just some thoughts;

1) your expectations might be based on "boomboxes", car audio and typical home audio bass heavy systems (What sells best at Circuit City). These systems are often full of distortion and resonance in the low end because buyers demand it (they are proud of all that earth shaking bass).

2) the harshness may be from your favorite modern pop/rock band's CDs ) ...do a google on "Loudness Wars". ACDC "Back in Black" is only mildly compressed compared to what you find commonly today. Michael Jackson's Thriller album is also well produced, has copious bass and is only mildly compressed. Fast forward to today and there is very little I can recommend that is not "hot". See also this Loud CD's

3) Your speakers will present a hard load to drive...your amp may be clipping long before the shut down or warning lights...distortion is perceived as harsh and loud somewhat independently from actual volume levels.

4) Are your ears ringing? Get a radioshack SPL meter. If you are listening above about 105 Decibels SPL (continuous) then you can certainly expect it to sound harsh as your ears may not handle it (IMD distortion in the inner ear) Generally rock concerts are done at around 105 db SPL for the heavy rocking tracks, which is close to the limit of what most people can stand and enjoy for a couple or hours (and as long as they play a few quiet songs in between to give your ears a break...ears will still ring afterwards)
Oops, in the last post I gave the URL to the letters feedback to this Original Loud CD Article
Wow! You've hit on almost every variable there is when it comes to tweaking for the best sound. You're young, start with one facet and take your time. For example, get on the internet and read everything you can about room acoustics, room treatments, etc. Don't go crazy and buy a lot of stuff. Just try to understand what affects what. Just one small example: tuning your room to tame the bass will actually improve your perception of what you hear. Honest1 hit on some of this. Bad highs can make bad lows and vice versa. It took me a year of experimenting to tame my room and I'm still fussing with it, but the improvements are incrementally noticable. One more thing, speaker placement is CRITICAL. There's a lot on the web about that too. Good luck, and by the way...don't forget to HAVE FUN.
I'll go with what others have said although I should add that I believe your amp is desighed by Nelson Pass and made by Nakamichi. So it should be up to the task. But it is not a Threshold amp.

Your future room will be an improvement, but speaker placement can be a huge difference.