First,try putting a tube pre in line with the dac. Second, Audio Research to me is not what I call a warm sounding amp. Yes very detailed and musical. I have also found that VAC amps have a very smooth presentation. If you can find them in a mono design the better. Second try different cables. The crosslinks are good but are limiting what your equipment can do.
On paper you have put together a very high quality system and it's not surprising that you should like the basic sound. I suggest that rather than wholesale changes of equipment you concentrate on careful system setup. Warmth is a quality associated with the upper bass thru lower mid-range (say, 100 to 300 Hz). Speaker and listner position can greatly influence the relative perception of this frequency band. Your equipment stand and any coupling/decoupling devices are also critical. At the level of equipment you have a high quality stand (Polycrystal, Solid Steel, etc.) is critical. The relative lack of smoothness you refer to could be due to either hard surfaces near the speaker generating high levels of sound reflections, or problems with your recordings. Hard sounding recordings are problematic, but speaker reflections can be dealt with via acoustic treatment.
Cardas makes good quality cables at fairly reasonable prices and you might want to consider upgrading your speaker cables. It's been my experience that using a single brand of cables has synergistic effects. Good luck!
If your preferences run to warmth and smoothness, I would second Bozo's recommendation that you try a tube preamp. That may also give you the power you seek. Start by auditioning something which is neutral tube-y like a CAT. If that doesn't pull your chain try something more 'romantic' like a Cary.
P.S.Do you have wall-to-wall carpeting with a pad? That makes a huge difference!
I would say the weakness if not bottleneck in your very nice system is the Crosslink. Beyond going up the Cardas line I do know of a good recommendation. An upgrade to thicker cable like Cross, Golden Cross or Hexlink would definately be a smooth move. Maybe some sort of power treatment would yield benefits as well. I'm just getting in to the power game, so i have no firsthand recommendations. i have heard good things about Audio Prism's quietlines, PS Audio powerplants and Monster's HTS-2000.
I think you have a fine system and might want to look into the acoustics of your room. (standing waves, 1. reflection both wall and floor etc.).
If you would like to change something you could try to go to the web site of Argento cables and take a look at their products.
They have just been tested at.
(I know, wired adress!!)
The only mistake they made, is that the price mentioned is the double of the real price, which makes it an ever better buy.
I use the VDM series myself and find that nothing comes close to it.
Ac...Ac...Ac line first ! Cardas power cords are good, but not in the game with your system, same with speaker cable, if you like Cardas;try Golden Reference.And what about your digital and inter cable? In my own system ;the digital cable is the one I switch to get the sound balance I prefer.
If I was in your position I would start with one, preferably two dedicated electrical circuits. Followed by a good quality duplex connectors. If you want to go on the cheap,Bob Crump from TG Design, recomends a particular Pass & Seymour model. You can probably find it with a search. On the more expensive, go with a Jena Labs cryogenically treated plug, list about $80.00.
On a more important line, (pun intended) I am in the process of burning in some cables in a Cable Cooker 2.0 from Audiodharma. their site is: http://www.audioexcellenceaz.com/audiodharma_cable_cooker.htm.
My initial reaction has been jaw drooping with my interconnects. I am still in the middle of trying this out with the different IC and Power Cords. If the rest of my cords benefit a tenth of what my Coincident iCs did I will be very happy.
For reference I own Rolland model 10 amp, Hovland HP100 mc preamp, Graham 2.2 mounted on an Oracle turntable. Wadia 27ix w/270, Verity Parsifal Encore. Numerous IC, and PC from JPS, XLO, Coincident, Illuminati. Don't ask me to compare them until they have gone through the cooker. This cables were "properly broken in?", not until the cooker.
You have a good system, do not change it until you work on the basics of what you have. Going on a wild goose chase can be very expensive and time consuming. I know.
Hope this helps.
On paper, your system seems like it's most excellent. I've read the posts, and I must be candid. I think you're bored with your gear. It's not pumping you up the way it used to. All of your gear is excellent- please let me know when you decide to sell it. However, before you do........consider this.......
You didn't mention anything about your analog rig. What table, arm, cartridge and phono preamp are you using? Could it be that that is what's missing? Perhaps. Perhaps not. The tweaks mentioned earlier will only take you so far. I get the feeling you're looking for a more significant change. A new set of mono blocks with matching preamp will certainly give you that. Check out the Electrocompaniet Nemo mono blocks. IMO, they are the best I've heard regardless of price, and I've heard a lot. And talk about power, at 110v, you've got more than you'll probably ever use. Switch voltage in your home to 220v, and say hello to HIFI HEAVEN. Or Hell, since absolute power corrupts absolutely. The matching preamp is a steal, and you get to learn all about the wonderful world of truly balanced amplification. Or,perhaps a new pair of speakers. There is nothing like a new pair of speakers to get that audiophile heart racing with anticipation. I won't even begin mentioning what speakers you should look for next. For an audiophile, that's like me telling you who you should marry. In any event, I think it's boredom that afflicts you. You're not alone. This site is loaded with people in the same boat. I'm interested in what road you'll take, so please let us know.
Thanks everyone for the input so far. Looks like the cables are the place to start, which I agree since I have been trying some more expensive cables and decided to hold the decision until I find the right one. I tried Transparent Ultra and Cardas Quadlink but they did not make enough difference. I will also upgrade power cords.
As for the preamp, I actually sold my ARC LS-25 MK2?3 (latest model) to upgrade my DAC to Goldmund which I really notice the difference with all other DACs including ML 360S in how sweet, rich and more powerful it was. It had digital volume control and since Goldmund recommended that I go direct, I thought I could get rid of preamp and invest elsewhere. As for analogue, it is an entirely new hobby I think and I am definitely resisting to go there at least until I finish the digital jounrney. BTW, I spent a year building my HT and stopped hardware buying/changing and just watching movies. I am into audio for 6 months only...
I welcom more inputs
Cj, I suggest you consider cables, cords, etc, AFTER tweaking the system as is; only after optimising your present system's operation will you be able to assess the suitability of new components to yr system & musical taste.
Judging by your thread, it may be that you miss the involvement your system -- i.e. the quality to be drawn into the music. Musicality perhaps? Or is it pace & rythm and transient attack (you refer to more "power": but you DO have horsepower, you know...).
As you don't use a pre, first check the Goldmund -- VT100 impedance matching. If it's wrong, you could have anaemic (and "cold") sound coming out of the speakers.
Then, as suggested, check the support under the trans & DAC. The right support may provide dynamics and pace (try using thick granite under the front-end, or a Neuance shelf, or even Darumas). Indeed, do provide good power: dedicated lines are relatively cheap but excellent performers. Speaker placement & room treatment will help with imaging and reflections -- but I expect you have already considered this aspect.
All of this requires little small financial outlay and offers lots of fun -- before you start investing the mega$!
Update on what I did so far:
I talked to my main dealer and got a bunch of accessories and cables to try based on all your suggestions:
1. Symposium Svelt Plate for Speaker: This made the most difference! for me. It was immediately noticeable with more air and better bass, almost like upgrading a new amp or speaker...
2. Harmonic Tech Pro 9 Speaker cables: Maybe a little better but did not notice much difference from Cardas Crosslink I have. I will try Magic and Higher end cables.
3. Perpetual P1A upsampler: Again maybe a little difference, but not much. My friends seemed to prefer the upsampled signal though. I will try Purcell from my dealer.
4. Symposium Rollerblocks/Coupler: Not yet tried.
So, I will keep the Svelt speaker plate and the cables and perpetual goes. I will actually try using the Svelt plate and roller blocks for all my gears and see if they have the same large effect.
Also, will try with power conditioners.
Please keep the ideas and suggestions coming. Thanks
Walker links! I had just about given up on my Pro Ac Response 3.5's and decided to give the links a try. The problem I was having was that the treble was too aggressive - violins too steely, sibilants to sharp, brass too harsh. The links made the problem vanish, leaving sweet, smooth, and even more detailed treble. They even have a 30-day money-back guarantee. Can't live without 'em! Check 'em out at walkeraudio.com Steve
Tell us about your room! Carpeting, speaker position,
sidewall issues, etc. Ern
It's in your head...this ultimate pursuit for audio nirvana is never going to end...never never never...
as long as there is desire...there's going to a manifestation of it....you will buy something...but if you put so much hype or desire into something...chances are you are going to be left with that "still longing for more" and "I can outdo you" feeling
...true happiness comes from knowing the fact that you can never "search" for happiness..you can only "obtain" things that trigger off some kinds of receptors in your head associated with happines...be happy...you'll land up being more happy
and you will spoil forums with inconsequential philosophy people dont need...
suburuguru nailed it. suggest you sit aside the equipment
frenzy for time, and start exploring room issues. (starting with AC delivery!). Best wishes on your endeavor.