What's wrong with my Cal Delta/Sigma?

I recently purchased this transport/dac combo. Help me upgrade this set up. My soundstage is muddy, highs and mids are veiled, bass is punchy, and I am not getting that tube "glow" that I expected to get from using this set up.

My amp/pre is Aragon 8002/Nakamichi Ca-7a, Speaker is KEF 103/4, cables are AQ Emeralds and Argents, and using a Monster reference2 as digital coax between the dac/trans (recently ordered a silverserpent from bettercables.com yet to be received).
How long has it been powered up and what were you using as a source before? Might want to check the tubes in the DAC as well. Most of the tubes that I receive in the mail sound like crap for a couple of days (both signal and output) as they seem to be full of static electricity. The same goes for most anything else that has been shipped.
I was using a marantz 63se. The tubes should be operational and well burned in because I purchased this trans/dac from a private seller who's been using it for years, and they sounded fine when I demoed them on his system.
Replace the 12AX7 output tube with the low noise version from Cal Labs (~$40). Also, ditch the optical digital interconnect and get a high quality (preferably silver) unshielded .5M digital coaxial interconnect. Set the units aside of one another and not stacked. Do not use vibrapods. Make sure that you NEVER turn off the DAC other than to move / change connections / service the tube, etc.

Had this Combo for 8 years and have experimented much. This is what worked for connection to ARC LS-25 / VT-100.
Another good upgrade is to change the 3 connectors to the upgrade versions from CAL ($60). Don't attempt this on your own unless you are confident in soldering skills, electronic technician abilities, and are very careful. The unit must be totally disassembled, connectors desoldered from PC Board, new connectors mounted in the Bulkhead, and wires run from the new connection to the PC Card. Just another tip...
Yohjixme: I am just fishing here, but the digital IC does effect the sound quite a bit (regardless of what the bits is bits crowd has to say about it). It could be the cable, but I kind of doubt it would make the sound awful, as you describe unless there is something wrong with it. I have tried some pretty cheap ones myself and though they did not sound great at all, they were still OK. My DAC (a Bel Canto) needs to be powered up a minimum of three days (a week is better) for the detail to shine through, otherwise it is a little muffled, but I am talking very little here and as the cheap cable went, it still sounds not great but OK. What you may want to try is to clean all of the RCA connectors (both male and female) and then reinstall the cabling (both the digital and analog IC's). It is advisable to power down when doing this, but it should just take a few minutes. If you do not have a special cleaner for this an inexpensive one is electricians grade Isopropyl alcohol (available at electronics stores and probably even Radio Shack), which should be above 99.95% pure and have no additives. I use a cotton T-shirt over a pointed wooden skewer to clean the insides of the male RCA's, but most anything small enough will work fine (I just don't use knife blades for fear of scratching the metal). Following this leave it powered up for a week and see what happens. This won't cost you much ($3 or so) and is good maintenance anyway. Dirty contacts can severely degrade the sound from my experience and even if this does not work at least you will have eliminated this possible cause of the poor sound. Also why you are at it you might as well clean the power cord and IEC contacts.
jk, sounds like you spent a very worthwhile $100 upgrading your sigma? I will definitely look into that. I got most of my muddiness out of my system, but it still sounds kind of sharp, like a "tinny" sound. And there is more hiss coming out of my speakers than compared to when I am using other sources. Perhaps your suggestions can amerliorate these symptoms. Thanks

Dekay, funny you should mention about poor contacts between interconnects. I took out all my cables and reinstalled them like an hour before I checked your post. And I would say 90% of the muddiness has magically dissapeared. I just got two pairs of emeralds, used, from ebay, and perhaps these cables were suffereing from static electricity, as jk mentioned regarding his tubes and other equipment that suffered from being transported. I haven't used any cleaning solutions, which reminds me of those XLO cleaning cloths they used to sell. But, by reconnecting my cables, I probably shaken off whatever debris that was causing my system to not funtion properly.
Thanks for your help.
Have you guys used any after market power cords? I am thinking about getting some PS audio mini lab cords for the dac and pre, since I heard the transport won't be affected by power cord upgrade.
Hissing -- Most likely the tube needs replaced.

I used AudioQuest power cords with the Ferrite removed...
I have an Alpha/Delta combo, and I just replaced the tubes with 1963 GE large plates. This has opened up my soundstage immensly. Also, the analog cables and the powercord are custom made by a guy on ebay. Do a search for Cableplex. The Nirvana cables are the best I've heard, they beat out a pair of $400 straightwires, for only $75 per 1 meter pair. His powercords are top notch, both the alpha and the delta have one. As far as the digital cable, I contacted CAL, and they told me their perferred method is the digital coax. I have two that I perfer, one is the ZuCable Firemine and the other is a custom cableplex. I can hardly tell the difference between the two, but I perfer the ZuCable. The Cableplex Digital is only $20 and it is better in my HT than a $200 Tara Labs.

as far as cables, the Interconnects made the biggest difference, and the powercord on the DAC.

Yohjixme. I had the same problem when I hooked a Theta Pearl transport I got last week. Muddy, veiled and a fat midrange. Just like you, it turned out to be a poor mechanical connection. It all disappeared when I swapped digital cables around a couple times. And yes, Dekay gave me the same advice, which did the trick. Now I'm a very happy boy.
JK, I am definitely getting some low noise tubes.

Ton, I am not familiar with tubes at all, but you think the large plates is responsible for your increased soundstage? I did some research, supposedly those tubes your using were custom made and somewhat rare. Also, being on a tight budget, I've been dwelling on taking a chance on cableplex powercords or the ps audio minilab cables since they seem to offer tremendous performance for the money, $199 for 10 awg, 3x shielded (boy, i am starting to sound like one of those absolutepower ads).
The Tubes are available at www.upscaleaudio.com, I think they were around $20 each. They have a whole lot more if you want tho spend $$$. As far as increased soundstage, I think all of the upgrades, tubes and cables, made a contribution to the sound quality. I had the tubes recommended to me by Matt, the guy who makes the Cableplex cables. I am not familiar with the PS Audio, but for the money I think you will not regret anything from Cableplex. I have an Audiophile uncle who just upgraded his entire HT, and His daughters HT, to the cableplex Nirvana cables. This includes a special subwoofer cable.

As you can tell, I can't say enough about the cables, this is my personal opinion and the biggest enhancement to my system.

Good luck with your decisions
I reinstalled my stereo today. I gave it my best effort to separate the audio and power cables, I've cleaned all the contacts with an alcohol solution (eye make up remover has amazing amounts of alcohol presents, and many differnt types of alcohol too). I moved the transport/dac away from my power/pre amp. And, now, my system is free of everything it was plagued by. Thanks for all your help!
BTW, Monster reference2 is not a bad digital coax. Beats the hell out of the Monster datalink100 I was using.
Good to hear that it just needed a little tender care. I have to do the same thing to our bedroom system that has been laying around in pieces for the last month.
Just wanted to share, I received my Silver Serpent in the mail today from BetterCables.com. It's installed, and I am wreaking the benefits, BIG TIME!! My system now is producing "AIR", "TEXTURE", and probably some hateful neighbors because their is more bass that seems to go deeper with more stress (excitement).

Yah, Yohji is now Viggen.
Viggen, if you're enjoying the cable that much, you're probably playing your system louder than usual. And I'm sure the neighbors appreciate that too. :•) Have fun and I'm glad everything is working out.
Oh, I don't know Gunbei, I guess I had the attenuator a few notches clockwise more than I usually have it = )

The cable isn't burned in yet, so there is still traces of grain in the highs and the lows can be more liquid.

I, also, just ordered a Mapleshade powercord, a LAT powercord, and two pairs of Mapleshade clearview ultrathin interconnects. I am not sure what components I will be using the powercords on, but I will play around, and purchase more if I like them. And the ultrathin will compete with my Emeralds for playing time.

Eversince I stumbled onto this Audiogon, my bank account has been suffering, and I've been devoting more time websurfing to research on product I never heard of. I used to think I knew it all, but this past week has been an experience, I've learned a lot, sorta like summer school.

One more question, I opened up my Sigma today, and I found the tube to be a Tesla ecc83 12ax7. Is that like a "good" tube? Thanks Audiogon members!
I know what you mean Viggen. Since finding this Audiogon, I've spent more money on this hobby than I ever thought possible. And that's not only on components, but all the associated tweaks too. Luckily, I've also been able to buy some great used stuff at bargain prices. Let us know how the different interconnects and power cords work out for you.

>>""I opened up my Sigma today, and I found the tube to be a Tesla ecc83 12ax7. Is that like a "good" tube?""<<

Oh oh. Now all the tuberollers will come crawling out of the woodwork! :•) Now, they're a dedicated bunch.
Tesla is a 'good' tube.... There may better IMHO... It all depends on your system, ears, wallet and the desire to tweek. I liked the stock LN tube from CAL $40 (per my other post), and Kevin Deal has a tube suggestion (which I can't recall) that was also nice for ~$30. I had a NOS Telefunken that was also beautiful, but costly ($125).

Good luck with the tweeks -- I am glad you got your original problem(s) solved. I guess I qualify as a "tuberoller" (my current system is all tubes with the exception of the transport, cables and speakers).

Just want to update on my system. I have received 2 LAT power cables, 2 mapleshade clearview ultrathins and 1 doublehelix powercord.

First, I installed the 2 LAT pc on my delta/sigma. The difference is subtle where the sound is slightly more detailed, slightly quieter, soundstage is less in your face, and slighly better imaging. I installed only to the dac first, and the image was sort of out of wack, and it only snapped back into focus after I installed the transport with a LAT pc as well.

Second, I installed the ultrathin, replacing audiotruth emeralds, from the dac to pre and pre to amp. This installation is dramatically changed the sound of my system. The highs and lows found a home that were once lost. The soundstage is now prominent without being able to say "oh its more forward or less forward", its just everywhere.

Third, I installed the doublehelix pc to my preamp, and this is where all the magic started to shine through. I read somewhere in audiogon that my pre, nakamichi ca-7a, needs a good powercord. But, using the LAT with the NAk, I only noticed subtle improvements. But after installing the doublehelix, my whole system breathed new life. The highs are sheer and smooth, the lows are strong and controlled, and the mids are absolutely not there (in a good way).

Maybe I should return the LAT cables and get all Mapleshade powercords? I read somewhere that they suck with digital...

Anyways, sorry to bore all you good folks! But, Mapleshade ROCKS!
Glad to hear your happy with the Mapleshades. After you've given them more time to settle in, I'm sure you'll appreciate them even more. Maybe it's time for me to look into upgrading my Absolute Power Cords.