Whats my weak link?

Classe ssp-25 pre amp, classr ca-150, musical fidelity a3.2cd, parasound z dac, mostly stock power cords.

I picked up some new speakers today (kef qx5's) and they sounded a good 15% better at his house than mine. He was running a modded rotel pre amp, bryston 3b-st, arcam transport, older parasound dac, upgraded power cords.

I have a feeling that it was his pre-amp mostly. His set-up had that certain sound that I'm looking for, hard to explain but it sounded sooo good. Any suggestions?
I would say your parasound DAC would be the first to replace.

room acoustics...everything else is second...good luck
If it were me , I'd start with power cords . If you still feel the need to upgrade after that , you can use those new and improved cords on the new components .

Keep in mind it's not just the some of parts but the synergy between those parts .
Screams power cords to me, Acoustic Zen used by Classe owners I've known. Zu perhaps also. The MAC power cables sold on here are nice too.
If you try power cords, get some from somewhere with a good return policy or for a dealer thatets you audition them. Heck, good advice for most gear.

But the DAC is what came to my mind first.
It just might be his listening room .You could be spinning your wheels by replacing gear.Have him bring his gear over to your house and then you can determine what you need.

Just asking, what are you doing?

On March 1 you buy Vandys. Four days later you buy KEFs.

So what are you doing? More importantly, where do you want to go and how much money do you have available to try to get there?

Honestly, it sounds like you don't know, but what you do know is when you hear something better, you want that sound.

Tmsorosk told you that the synergy of the components is the thing that makes or breaks a system. You assumed that the KEFs were the winning factor in your friend's system, but they didn't do that same trick in your system, so it's not just the KEFs alone that gave your friend his sound.

Do you have a dealer nearby who can help you? It appears that you're flying blind and all you're going to do is keep on spending money with no plan in place.

YOur room probably has different acoustics than the other guys. Have you played with speaker placement and orientation to get them locked into your room? Gotta do that first to get a good baseline from which to judge what aspect of the sound, if any, needs to improve and how best to achieve that.
Dont know why people recommend changing powercords when you havent even stated what you already have. You say " upgraded", thats a good start. Since you've asked for opinions, I would start by replacing that old pre/pro and try a tube pre.
Hi B,

I have three comments:

1)I second Mapman's comment about room acoustics, speaker placement, and speaker orientation. Yogiboy's suggestion of having the other person bring over his gear is also a good one, if it can be arranged.

2)It appears that you have the power amp placed directly on top of the preamp, and that both components are right next to the digital stuff. That raises concerns in my mind that RFI/EMI/interference might be radiating between the components, with unpredictable but very conceivably audible sonic consequences. As an experiment, I would suggest that you temporarily move all of the components as far apart from each other as is practical.

3)Given that your DAC includes a headphone amp, you might find it useful to purchase a pair of relatively inexpensive headphones. That would help you to isolate the sonic issues you are perceiving between the source components and source material on the one hand, and the downstream components, speakers, and room acoustics on the other hand. The $100 Sony MDR-7506 provides surprisingly good performance considering its low price.

-- Al
I will try to get my buddy, Steve (who I bought the kefs from) , to bring over a couple of pieces of equipment. He was on the next level, compared to me and my system (5 yrs of obsessing vs. 9 months). He really has had numerous power cords, conditioners, cables, everything. We talked a long time about synergy within a system. He was using really cheap pressed board from a hardware store to tame some flutter echo so I don't think that was the difference. I'm more picky about speaker placement than he is. My system just sounds like the mids are predominant. These same speakers on his rig sounded so smooth, transparent and perfectly eq'd, for a lack or better description. It did look like he had some sort of power conditioning going on also. He was a tweaker in that he is on the level of opening his pre amp up and soldering in better caps, op's (whatever those are) and a bunch of other stuff that went over my head. He had also put dynamat on the insides of some components and built shields around the power supplies. I'm not talking about his system imaging better, which it did, but more the overall sound (tone?) of his system. Again, my paradigm, vanies and now these kef's are just too pronouned through the mids and I can't figure out what's going on here. I guess I should add some powercords and room acoustics because those will help ang gear, and then try his pre amp as I'm suspecting that's where I could gain an improvement.
+1 Winoguy17. I would start by eliminating the pre/pro. I never found one that could do music right, including Classe. Your amp has an input impedence of 75Kohm, so a nice tube preamp should fill the bill nicely. Even a solid state stereo preamp would be an upgrade though.
Ps, Chuck, Bro, I know now that I am flying blind. I thought that the sound that I didn't like was because of my speakers. You hear from some people that speakers make the biggest difference in sound; I didn't believe that so much before but now I'm certain of it. Dealers around me don't know nearly as much as you guys; they're just there to sell equipment, and I do have some "hi-end" dealers around me. Ahhhh, going crazy here. I know the sound I'm after, i just can't seem to get there.
Slow down B_limo, you move too fast.
Take a break. Read Jim Smith's "Get Better Sound."
Tackle one issue at a time. You will have a new appreciation
for how things fit together.

Be patient... the most satisfying sound is not assembled
quickly, or easily. It is a journey that takes many twists and turns,
over (literally) a lifetime. Make it fun...keep it fun.

Start with the book!!!
In addition to what Almarg said, see if your buddy will let you try his power conditioner. Plug source gear and pre-amp into it, not power amp. I suspect some power conditioning might make an improvement. Need not be expensive (unless for a power amp). I use a very modest Monster power strip with my source gear and it was a nice step in the direction you seek when applied.
Lol Jmcgrogan, I know I move too fast alot of the time, but I don't know that I'll ever enjoy that song.

Thanks Mapman! I think I'm going to try some powercords first and I will try a power conditioner for everything except my amp also.
Ps, again, Jmcgrogan, what pre amp would you recommend? I can probably try my buddies to see if that's partly responsible. I've read reviews stating that the classe ssp 25 isn't that great for a 2 ch. pre.
Power cords? Power conditioner?
A quick look at your system page leads me to suggest some room treatments. If the rest of your walls are as bare as the wall behind the speakers, an absolute for decent sound.
B, I'll add a fourth item to my previous comments:

4)If the connection between CDP and DAC is via coax, try experimenting with different cable lengths. In particular, if the length of the cable is in the vicinity of 1 meter or 3 feet, change it to either be very short, say 8 inches or less, or make it approximately 5 or 6 feet. See this paper.

-- Al


What, i believe, John (Jmcgrogan) and I (and a lot of others) are trying to tell you is this: "Stop what you're doing and start thinking about the big picture!".

Forget about your room, as important as it is, for right now and think about your components. You like the KEFs in Steve's system, so you bought them. You've heard what the KEFs were showing you in Steve's home, and you hear what the KEFs are showing you in your home.

Besides the sound's interacting with the room's acoustics, the speakers are giving you the music that they're receiving from your components. They can't give you gold from iron.

You said that your components are not as good as Steve's, and that Steve has taken them even further with his mods. Turn on the light bulb, the KEFs are showing you that your components aren't up to making music like Steve's components.

Now quit buying speakers and start comparing Steve's components to yours and spend your money upgrading those pieces that can't handle their share of the load.

You need to sit down and be honest, and come up with what you can spend and take the time and spend wisely. By components I mean every piece of your system from the wall to the speakers.

B limo,

I second Al's headphone suggestion. A few year's back, I decided to build a system I could retire with. I had (and still do) a pair of Sennheiser HD 600 cans, and Musical Fidelity X-2 can amp.

The cans were sounding much better that the system at that time. Now, that isn't the case at all. Cans give you a good baseline to measure your progress with.

That said, I believe you still don't have your speakers situated to give their best performance. It looks to me as if you have them located on the long wall, where they can't get any help from the corners of your room for good bass response.

Do you have the manual that came with your speakers? See what KEF reccommends for placement.

If that doesn't help, there were lot of good suggestions made previously here. Room treatment can tame many problems, but lack of bass response isn't usually one of them.

Good luck, keep trying, you'll get there.

03-06-13: B_limo
Ps, again, Jmcgrogan, what pre amp would you recommend? I can probably try my buddies to see if that's partly responsible. I've read reviews stating that the classe ssp 25 isn't that great for a 2 ch. pre.

B, I went through that HT phase about 15 years ago, trying fancy SSP's from Classe, Proceed, Krell, etc, none of them was very good for 2 channel audio. I still remember inserting a Classe CP-60 into my system in place of one of these SSP's (I recall I was running a CA-200 amp at that time), the difference was amazing. At that point I realized that no SSP would work in a 2 channel system.

Since then I've had about 20 different preamps in my system. I try to make sure they have a HT throughput, picked up a cheap Denon AVR to handle the other speakers for HT, and let a stereo preamp handle stereo.

I would recommend that you try your friends stereo preamp and see if that makes a difference. If it does, as I suspect it will, you now know where to start. I won't bother with any recommendations, since I find that the preamp is such a personal choice. For me, it's the heart of the system and difficult to find just the right sound and features. That's probably why I've been through over 20 preamps, more than double the amount of amps, CDPs, speakers, turntables, or any other piece of gear.

With disrespect, I think your weak link is the fact that you don't have a plan. Take some time to define the characteristics of your ideal music machine, then investigate components within your budget that have a high probability, working together, of getting you there.

A great dealer would be ideal, but it doesn't sound like you have access to someone who is willing to help you define what you want and then suggest options to get you there.

Jim Smith's book is a great beginning.

Good luck.
With disrespect, I think your weak link is the fact that you don't have a plan. Take some time to define the characteristics of your ideal music machine, then investigate components within your budget that have a high probability, working together, of getting you there.

A great dealer would be ideal, but it doesn't sound like you have access to someone who is willing to help you define what you want and then suggest options to get you there.

Jim Smith's book is a great beginning.

Good luck.
You all rock!! Thank you to everyone trying to help me out here. I suspect it's a combination of things: pre amp, room treatments and power cords. I think pre amp because the difference in sound is noticeable even at very low volumes. I played with speaker placement /listening seat placement snd overcame the bass issue but there are still many things off. I'm assuming pre amp and room treatments are going to get me 90% there.

I must say that I really, really appreciate all the help everyone has givin me, and so quickly, today and yesterday. Thank you, thank you thank you :-)
Do you guys think a peachtree decco would be a big upgrade over the ssp25 in terms of a pre amp?
Gotta ask, but what about the Vandys didn't float your boat? Saw you'd picked them up, and was looking forward to hear what you thought. Seemed, in the abstract and not having any personal exposure, like a great idea. Between the KEF and the Vandys, do you have a preference? I know that conventional wisdom (stuff I've myself parroted) can be that surround-sound processors pulling double-duty as two-channel preamps can be less than super -- thus look to thy Classe SSP. Honestly, that might be a great place to start, but what do I know. You're running very nice and well thought out gear either way, so it's really down to personal preference at this level, a far as I'm concerned. Put differently, if you were to estimate that you were looking for more "X" in your sound, what would X be? For whatever value of X you value, I suspect there's lots of ways to get from here to there. Maybe a little focus on that would help? I just hesitate to put too much faith in purportedly objective suggestions without unpacking motives -- especially when your motive is the only one that's worth a damn under the circumstances.... Not to say that I think any of the suggestions are not great suggestions, all make perfect sense to me in the abstract, just posing the question of weather it'd be beneficial to get less abstract...?
First off, scratch that decco idea; not what I'm looking for.

Hey Mezmo! Thanks for the reply. It's hard to explain what it is that I'm looking for in terms of sound because I'm relatively new to all this audio stuff. Basically, sometimes my set-up just has what I would describe as a pronounced midrange; it seems like I lose bass response and the extension, air and detail in the highs. My buddies system, who I mention above, just sounded so clean(?) and airy(?). The music seemed to flow so effortlessly.

I think I'm going to grab 4 gik 244 panels and experiment with those set up behind my speakers and at side first reflection points. I'll see if I can get some sort of decent pre amp on loan from somewhere and I'm thinking about grabing four pangea power cords (3 ac14se, 1 ac9). The reason why I'd go with pangea is because I can grab all four for like $340 from audioadvisor and I guess if I don't like them, I can return them; I dunno.

One thing that I should add though is that my stereo has always sounded quite a bit better to me late at night. The house I live in was probably built in the early 90's so it's not like it's super old. I don't know if it really is sounding alot better, or if its my mind set and lower ambient noise or if it's actually because I'm getting cleaner power, or a combination of all three of those things.

My room is only 12x13 and there isn't much in here so I had terrible slap echo so I grabbed a thick queensize mattress out of the guest bedroom, propped it against my back wall and threw a thick blanket on it. I've also got four sliding closet doors that I know have to hurt bass response at high volumes.

As for the vandersteens, they just weren'f for me. Compared to my paradigms and these kef's, they sounded slow (to me) and not nearly as detailed. I listen to all kinds of music and especially like percussive sounds; the vandies didn't cut it for me for drums. The vandies did sound crazy good for listening to house / electronic music though (so much so that it is going to be hard to part with them just for that reason). I like more of a pin point image also, and the vandies seemed a little diffused. They're a little on the big and ugly (to some) side, and I know it would only be a matter of time before my cat or girlfriends cat started using them as scratching posts.
Will, play nice. Sounds like a fine plan to me. And besides, we've got time and music to fill it with, who says we need a stinkin' "plan," anyway;)

Personally, think it’s the journey, the experiments, the learning and the mistakes (oh, dear lord, the mistakes...) that are half the fun. We're talking about tearing up a bed and throwing a queen sized mattress against the back wall because we can, just to see what kind of difference it makes. That's some serious, get shit done, can do attitude. Respect. And, really, the only way to figure out what kind of sound makes you go all smiley in the first place is trial and error -- which then metastasizes into a futile and evolving effort to describe it in words in order to communicate it to jackasses like me. You know, fun.

So, to the task at hand: pretending to be able to prescribe a fix for an imagined ailment over the Internet. (Yes, to any haters, something no half-competent professional would ever dream of doing, but lighten up, we're here to have fun and trade ideas, not cure cancer). Let’s pretend that the old detail/resolving power v. warmth/musicality distinction is a spectrum. (I might argue it is not, but anyway.) Reserving your right to change your mind at any moment, sounds like you're coming down more on the detail end of things. Think the Vandies are a fine indicator of this. They're meant to have it in them to be warm, musical, high-energy and wonderful, but arguably a little sloppy when it comes to detail. You've become acclimated to something that's likely a lot more clinical and detailed. And thus, we’ve uncovered a valuable preference. Ideally, of course, the idea is to minimize the compromise of one side of the “spectrum” that needs to be made in order to advance the other. What we all (well, me, at any rate) want is lush, warm musicality at the same time as fantastic detail and holographic imaging. But in the real world, a world made of compromises, it can often be a trade-off to advance the ball in one direction at the expense of the other (Exhibit 1: the Vandersteens).

For many a year, I was running Thiel 2.3s (to overgeneralize, falling more on the detail/clinical side of the spectrum) while chasing through all manner of tubes (several preamps, a CDP, a DAC, etc…) all in the interest of trying to go both directions at once. I wanted lush and warm and tone, and kept throwing things at the Thiels to pull them in that direction—all the time relishing the anchor the Thiels provided on the detail end of the spectrum. Then, I decided that wasn’t what I wanted after all. I wanted more detail. So all the tubes went, and the Thiels were switched to a diet of escalating solid state to feed off of. Wires were built, and then changed, and then changed some more; speakers were moved; rooms were swapped; isolation was tweaked; and this went on for about a decade (sigh). Then came the Parsifals. Sounded wonderful, immediately, major improvements in both detail and musicality, and imaging to die for (and for the price, damn well better be…). After about a year with the Parsifals, I put the Thiels back in to see what I thought. Now, I’d listened to the Thiels pretty much every day for over ten years. I loved them. But after a year with the Parsifals the Thiels didn’t last two minutes. I’d become acclimated to something different, and I didn’t have the slightest idea how different until I tried to go back. By comparison, the Thiels were so etched and clinical I didn’t get through even one track. Couldn’t do it. Unplugged them and schlepped them back into the other room, never to try that experiment again. (At the risk of cross-referencing, I’ve always considered this drift to the detail/etched end of the spectrum to be the most easily identifiable culprit in producing listener fatigue.) Personal mythology aside, really drove home for me the power of acclimatizing to a particular sound. It takes time to relax into a sound and understand it, to make a home with it. And then you come to like what you’re used to. My take away was that you really have to give changes time to sink in to fully appreciate and understand them. At least I do (years for me, but then I’m slow). When folks caution to “slow down,” think that’s what they’re getting at. Now, if that don’t work for you, it don’t work for you – no reason it should if it don’t – but there it is. (Yes, I realize I just contradicted my whole point about getting used to stuff by only giving the Thiels two minutes. Solid argument. Perfect example. I rule. Check, check and check.)

As for points to consider, it seems by general acclimation we’re talking about four things: positioning, room treatment, power, and possibly preamp. (Almost all p’s). All seem like worth exploring, and I’d take’em in just that order because I suspect that’ll provide the most bang for your buck (one might even argue that the order is most important/least expensive to least important/most expensive…but that’s an argument I’ll hope to skip). And go easy on the bedding.
In a job interview, the applicant for the sales position was asked, "how many years of experience do you have?". "Ten years," was the proud reply.
In reality, the applicant had ONE year of experience, ten different
consecutive times. Hear the difference?
? How does this apply to my pre amp possibly being the weakest link? Are you saying that it only sounds mediocre after one year of ownership, but after ten years of ownership, it starts sounding really good?
I am no grand audiophile. However I do like the sound of MY system that I created in MY surroundings. You get what you pay for... more or less. It is the less however that will keep your concern. Back to the situation at hand.

Not to say anything is weak ..if you like it...You like it!
TWEAKS help. YES they do matter.
Audition a couple of MORROW Interconnects (fully broken in)with your system...then reasess. Go to Morrow.com and meet a System Genie!!

Amp - Sherwood S6040 CP (Dual MosFet)
PreAmp - NAD 114
DAC "WOW" dac w/ I-tunes via Windows Vista
(Thank you Dave Audio/Canada for the "Lil" Black Box)
CD Player - Modified PS1 (One) Yes...PlayStation
Luxman T-102 Tuner w/Garrad FM Indoor ANT.
Dual 606 TT / Factory Ortofon ULM 55E
DBX 224 Noise Reduction/Range Expander
Pioneer HPM 100 Speakers
Energy 100 Speakers
Klipsch 10" KSW Subwoofer
MORROW MA-3 Interconnects DAC/CD
Morrow MA-1 Interconnects Amp-PreAmp
Sennheiser Momentum Headphones
Belkin PURE A/V Surge Protection
So, just to update the thread, I have since picked up 4 gik 244 panels placed on the sides and behind my speakers; big difference for me. Less "beaming" and reduced some "brightness (?)". First thing I noticed was a more focused image and that I turned it up 5db louder on my pre amp because it sounded quiter. This allowed me to see deeper into the music and pick up on micro details easier, as the volume was higher. Second step was getting a lightspeed attenuator which brought out more detail and lifted the "veil" off my speakers, so to speak, along with improving many other aspects. Step three was upgrading the power supply for my wadia 170i which is the source that I use 90% of the time. I also played with speaker placement. I must say that these three tweaks resulted in a much improved sound which is very close to what I was after. Next up is possibly a quintet power conditioner and a couple of pangea power cords, but I must say that I am finally happy with the sound that I have :-) . At least for now...