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I see I neglected to provide that all important budgetary information so here goes. If I keep the 802's I would like to keep my outlay around $ 3,000. (Admittedly probably not enough to do justice to the speakers). If I sell the 802's I would consider any options up to $ 5,000. Also, I had a positive experience yesterday auditioning NAD C270/C160/C660 through Mission 783. If I left out anything else, let me know.
Mike, I would suggest, from my experience only, going with Classe amps - ca200. You'll find good deals used for around $1500 or less. It is smooth and a powerhouse - doubles down to 400w. I also have cj tubes in the preamp and Meridian front end which is also smoooooth. As you can see a bright system would run me out of the music biz. I have Thiel speakers which are totally revealing and there is no brightness unless the recording warrants - and that does happen with digital occasionally. I would also consider MIT speaker cables, 750+ series - great combo with Classe - if you do that you'll want to go with a more revealing ic. just an opinion...
Check out Legend Audio Design. They have an integrated for $3000 which sounds fabulous. I have the triode monoblocks, but they are around $5500. Legend products are very detailed and dynamic, but very enjoyable to listen to for hours. Of course, much of what you hear will be attributed to other parts of your system - speakers, wires, room size and set up. I would definitely go with tubes in your case, they are much easier to listen to for long periods of time. Also check out Rogue, they have great products for the price. McIntosh is also easy on the ears, at least the tube products.
I had the same problem with B&W.
Had the 805 Nautilus, the sound was so bright, I had to put on sun-screen!
I tried them with all manner of solid state and mos-fet integrated amps, including such non-bright amps as the Rega Mira.
Also tried the Electrocompaniet ECI 3, The Bryston, The Arcam A85, and Plinius 8100.
Changed my cd player from the Arcam 72 to the Rega Planet 2000. Changed ALL my cables and still the B&W's remained way too hot. Even with my Linn turntable, those 805's burned the walls!
My dealer suggested a sub woofer to help compensate for the harshness. I did not take his advice because it did not address the basic problem of those metal dome tweeters.
After about 4 months, I sold them and bought Dynaudios 72's.
They retail for about $800 less and after break in, they absolutely smoke the B&W's.
Great bass and fullness, just as detailed as the B&W's but much more listenable and realistic. My suggestion, audition a pair of Dyn's. They will be music to your ears.
The Plinius 8100 is a great integrated. Powerful, detailed, explosive, and with the Dyns pretty smooth.
Match carfully with cable. I noticed the power cables made a big difference.
I had an AC master coupler from Synergistic, this just made the problem worse.
I now am cabled through-out with Transparent, altho the VDH sounded excellent too!.
Hope this helps. Good luck.
Pops has a great system. I don't remember what Thiels he owns. I heard in all places, a dealers showroom the Theils 3.something with all Classe equipment except for an Audio Aero CDP that the person brought along to audition the Thiels. I was very impressed. Accurate yet very musical and involving. If a warmer sound is more to your liking, try Vanderseen 3s. Keep looking. There are a lot of good speakers in your price range. You have just been told about 3 of them. If you should get 10 more responses, you will probably get 10 different opinions.
Best in your quest for the best in your budget.
Mike, great post, first of all. I think we can all relate.
Have you heard a system you really loved? At someone's home or at a dealer's or perhaps the Home Entertainment Show (coming up end of May in NYC)? You might think about finding an entire system you like the sound of, then duplicating it, or doing so selectively. My feeling is that relacing a com-ponent here and there in your current set-up may get you where you want to be, but it's hit-or-miss. A top-down, system approach may be more effective. Synergy is everything.
Excellent taste in artists with mostly great recordings.
Let's assume the B&Ws go. Ground up for $5,000.
YBA CD player and integrated combined with your choice of ATC passive monitors or Totem floor standers. By the time you properly do stands (if needed), interconnects (LAT International, cheap but very good) and Analysis Plus
Oval 9s you will be there with WAF to spare. Simple to use utilizing a small amount of real estate, clean and VERY musical.
Don't let the reviewers run your life.
You mention trying other amp / preamp combo's, different digital front ends, tons of different cables, etc... so that kind of rules those out as the source of "bleeding ear syndrome". As such, you are left with your speakers as the logical source of your problems. Regardless of all of the other combo's that you tried, it was the one mainstay in the system ( other than the brightness ).
While you might be able to find a combo of gear that will tame the characteristics about them that you don't like, my guess is that you would end up in the same situation that you are already in. That is, IF you build a new system around them. This is not to say that B&W's are bright or "bad" speakers, only that they are not to your personal taste.
I would look at the size of your room, the volume levels and tonal balance that you want to achieve and then look at speakers with those factors in mind. Once you've found something that interests you, you'll know about how much power you'll need to look for and can start working backwards from there.
This is not to say that i think that the speakers are more important than all of the other links in the chain, but they can be the most influential. I say this based on various power demands, how they load and react with the room, dispersion characteristics, etc.. All of other products simply process and pass along what electrical signal is already there. Speakers convert that electrical signal to a mechanical signal and as such, have twice as many variables to deal with.
I would look for something that was relatively efficient ( 89+ db's or so) a relatively easy ( non-reactive ) load to drive, medium to high impedance ( 6 - 10 ohms ) and something that will work ( in terms of placement and your listening position ) within your requirements. This will make amplifier selection quite a bit easier and allow you to concentrate on a high quality source and minimizing losses in the preamp.
Just a thought and hope you don't find it out of line. Sean
Mike, based on your room description, it sounds like may have some serious room acoustic issues causing the sound to be much more bright and alive than it should be.
I would address the room first because some to most of the equipment you list is already on the dark/warm side of life.
Room acoustics good or bad can affect the sound of your system by up to 80%. Look for thick carpeting and padding, beams in the ceiling, bookcases with lots of books, perhaps closing off the room with the equipment with drywall/paneling and a solid 6 panel wood door.
I would also recommend staying away from the multi-channel home theater setup. At least for now. If you become satisfied with the 2-channel setup, then you automatically will have a very nice HT sound as well without stepping down in gear.
Sounds to me like the problem is the amp/pre-amp combo. From my experience, Krell and Threshold components are very bright and "in your face." Mated with the B&Ws, I can see where your ears would be ringing, despite use of the Cardas Cross. Of course, you may have "room" issues, but in my experience such concerns are ususally not THE critical factor.
I'd get rid of the amp/preamp and start over. I have N804s and use a Musical Fidelity A3cr preamp/Musical Fidelity A300cr power amp (225 wpc). The MF stuff is extremely neutral and the choke regulation feature virtually eliminates all grain/distortion. There is simply no fatigue when listening to my system.
The B&Ws are EXTREMELY system dependent and I think you're missing the right synergy. When mated with the right components, the Matrix 802s can really sing, so I think it'd be a waste of great speakers to change. Your front end and cables look good.
First, thanks to all for your input thus far. I am leaning at this point to selling the B&W's for several reasons. First, I don't think I want to spend the required funds trying to build a new system around them, be it with Classe, Musical Fid, Electrocompaniet,etc. I think I would like to try a speaker with soft dome tweeters and do a complete new system around them, because as others have pointed out, I don't think I will ever be happy with the characteristic B&W sound. As for rebuilding my home to alter the room acoustics, I point out that I have had the same complaints in three different residences, not to say that my room couldn't use some attention (After all, whose room couldn't?) I JUST got back from an audition of Totem monitors, and will try to find their floor standers since I liked the sound of their upper registers, but missed the bass. (I am, after all, switching from B&W's) I am also unfamiliar with YBA, but will definitely seek that out as well. Thanks again, and keep it coming.
A speaker that may work for you would be one of the ProAc Response speakers, I would assume that a used pair of 2.5's would go between 2k and 2.5k. A very musical speaker that is easy on the ears and goes down below 30Hz. Very simple to drive. A great speaker. Not the most detailed, but one of the most musical speakers for someone who likes a bottom end without much on top. Good Luck.
Mike- based on your listening preference which are much the same as mine, I'll let you know what I have found thru a 2 year long upgrade. The one constant I've had, up until this week was Vandersteen 2cis (I just bought the 3Asigs and boy are they awesome. However, the 2cis allowed me to hear the improvements as I went from an top of line Yamaha C2a pre (and not bad sounding at all, I might add) to a ARC SP9 MkII to a BAT VK3i. Then I upgraded the amp from a Moscode 300 to a McCormack DNA 0.5 to a 0.5 Rev.B. The other constant has been a CAL CL-10 front end. The sound was never fatiguing and always had an emotional impact with timbres accurately portrayed. Not the last end in imaging/detail, but never hi-fi sounding or analytical. You could pick up 2cis for about $600 and 2ces for a little more. DNA 0.5s go for $700-$1000 depending on std, dlx or SMc Audio mods. VK3i pre for $900-$1500 depending on configuration. So you could certainly make a wholesale change in direction for $3k or if you sell your 802s, you could step up to 3As and a DNA 1. Beware that this could also be considered a shameless plug since I have most of this equipment for sale now since I've finished my upgrade.
I have owned the Theta Pro Basic I and II dacs and found them nice at first but ultimately fatiguing. The Gen Va is a different story, but it is expensive. Many years ago I picked up a demo Micromega Duo BS2 dac, which, when coupled with a good transport, say a Parasound CBT 2000 and a good jitter reduction device is not fatiguing and does not sound like some of the stuff that passes for high end digital. The Micromega is the only dac I have heard that occaisionally comes close to getting a violin or accoustic guitar to sound like something you want to listen to-nowhere near close to live but at least it has a tiny bit of sweetness and bloom if the recording is done well. There are probably other dacs or cd players that can do this, but I have not heard them. I would also recommend that you listen to vacuum tube electronics. Few solid state electronics will likely get you the sound you want if you regularly listen to live unamplified music. Also you must consider component synergy. You can't just take a bunch of recommended components and think they will work well together. For speakers I would suggest listening to Vandersteen, Vienna Acoustics and Spendor. Some B&W's are not bright sounding and may work for you if properly matched with appropriate electronics and front end.
Honestly. Get the Marantz cd player if they still market it, or a used Denon 1650ar, a NAD C370 integrated, and Harbeth Compact 7ES speakers. (I do not own the Marantz, I do have a Denon in my home office system, I don't own the NAD, but I do have the Harbeth Compact 7's.) Keep whatever cables you have. Don't worry, be happy.
Or, keep the B&W's. Buy the NAD and a used Meridian 508.24.
OK, I have some sound ideas to build on. I plan to make a livable speaker selection, paying attention to what is being used to drive them. I would like to point out that I am leaning toward a multi-channel setup, (either a sat/sub arrangement, or a better pair of mains with center surround and a sub)but with music as a priority. I notice everyone is suggesting two-channel setups. I am not sure if this is because you all believe a multi-channel setup is not capable of doing stereo "right" or because I didn't make myself clear enough. Yes, 98% of the time I will listen to two channel audio. But I would like to be able to throw in a movie or music DVD and enjoy what multi-channel has to offer. Thanks for your continued input.
I have a dual purpose system and immensely enjoy both 2-channel music and movie playback. The biggest problem for you to get stereo "right" while still allowing for surround capabilities is that your budget will be stretched much further and, therefore, the 2-channel parts will be lesser. Other than that, and some obvious limitations of room placement, TV's between the mains, etc. that limit performance, you can get excellent sound out of a system that will do both.
As a first budget-protecting piece of advice, use whatever you can find for your surrounds. Best not to use something ridiculously cheap and crappy, but I wouldn't worry about matching them to the fronts. You can always upgrade later if you want, and they'll add a lot to a movie by having sound in the rears. The same probably goes for amplification of the surrounds.
There are a lot of very nice amps in a price range (used) that would be the basis of good sound 2-channel system, but it'll be a lot harder to find a good $1200-1500 used 5-channel amp (or combination of amps that total five channels). I don't have any hands-on experience with 5-channel amps in that price range, so I won't attempt a recommendation other than to say Rotel consistently gets high marks from reviewers.
If you're looking for a softer sound to the speakers, I have a lot of friends who are very satisfied with their PSB-based systems. You can get a lot of speaker from PSB for not a lot of money. They even make some incredibly inexpensive pairs you could use for surrounds if you don't have something else to plug the gap. Also nice about PSB is that it's easy to upgrade within the line over time.
You could blow your budget just a bit and look at the Muse Model 9 DVD player, which is also an excellent CD player. You can get them used for $1200-1400 which, again, will probably contribute to putting you beyond where you want to be, but you'd upgrade everything else in your system a couple times over before you'd begin to see this as the weakest link, and it serves a dual purpose (which also greatly helps the WAF).
Hope this helps. I watched the new U2 Elevation concert DVD in surround sound the other night, and it was absolutely electrifying. It's fun to have a system that does both. -Kirk
Get to a top dealer in your area. Figure out what you want there and start unloading your equipment as needed. Trying to piece a system according to other peoples preferences will end up the same way as going the Stereophile Recommended components route. A good dealer is the only way to go especially if they have lots of components
You have and have had good equipment. No need to sell or buy anything else. Your difficulty is speaker placement and calibration. Assuming you have two speakers only, place the speakers against the wall facing directly forward about 7' apart. Your listening area is in the middle about 10" from the wall. Adjust all your tone controls to neutral or at the midpoint. Get a sound level meter from Radio Shack and calculate the channel levels to within 75 db (+3 or -3.) Play the music and adjust the volume to your liking.
Dump the B&W's.
It's obvious their metal tweeters are not your cup of tea(nor mine, I had B&W's). From the description of your musical tastes - acoustic, folk, and soft rock, a speaker with silk dome tweeters would be much more to your liking since you seem to prefer overall musicality and tonality of an analytical style.
I suggest that you look into Jean Marie Reynaud speakers, especially the Trente' and Offrande. All of Reynaud's speakers are amazingly musical and immerse you in the emotion of the performance. While normally this implies a romantic speaker that colors the sound, but this isn't true with JMR's. They are highly detailed and dynamic with a rich texture and tonality. Vocals, piano, cello, standup bass, etc. are so realistic that it is breathtaking.
And Reynaud speakers are extremely easy to position, while still throwing a wide and deep soundstage. The mate well with almost all electronics and tubes.
If you are looking to maximize your buying power, go used. The three or five thousand you have to spend will get you $8-10,000 worth of equipment if you take your time.
Mike, it really comes down to your speakers and the reflectivity of the listening room environment. Please do yourself a favor and research the Harbeth line. They are a perfect match for your listening tastes, which is similar to mine. I, like Paul, have the Compact 7ES-II, and I am confident you will be very happy for a long time. (About $2500US.) If you truly listen in near-field, the room is of less importance. But, you should do what you can, within WAF, to deal with the primary reflections. Good luck to you. Charlie
Wow, I have to say this is the first time in my life I've ever heard someone call Threshold bright. I started with the S300 and FET2, upgraded to a FET 1 running through B&W 802s for years. Then had Threshold do the E update to both amp and preamp (with E power supply), and finally I ended up with a FET10E & 10PC. I've loved them all and each upgrade just got better and better. However I did audition the Matrix version of the 802, and even as a tried and true 802 lover, I didn't like the Matrix. I held off and I'm really glad I did as the N802s are killer. This will be the heart of my system for years to come, no reason to change any of these components. As far as brightness? None in my listening room and that is the one thing that will send me running. I think maybe you should look at what you are putting through that Threshold amp as that is what it is going to amplify quite faithfully, and even though I prefer the N to the M 802, I don't think that's your problem either. I would also NOT advise putting the 802s against the wall, use the rule of thirds. Tom
Tom, the Threshold preamps are VERY revealing up top and are construed by many to sound "bright". As to their amps, many of the earlier designs are extremely "load sensitive". By this i mean that they can change tonal characteristics when presented with various impedances and amounts of reactance. As such, the amps can sound different ways to different people using different speakers & cables. This has been well documented even though i myself initially overlooked it. Sean
I didn't read all the posts, so forgive me if I am repeating something.
As of last year, I had unforgiving glare in my system too. At first I thought my stereo's room size is too small, and there was this god awful mirrored sliding closet door. I've moved to two different places since, and each one is bigger and better acoustically.
Ok, this might be something obvious to you, but here is how I cured my system's glare problem. I paid attention to the AC that my components were feeding on. Did you ever try isolating your ac by using an dedicated outlet? How about trying ac filters like Grey or PS Audio? Powercords?
At first, I got LAT International powercords. This greatly diminished the ear piercing glare. But not completely.
Recently, I gave Virtual Dynamics a call. I got a few of their powercables. They made my new day time listening sounding like my old night time listening, and my new night time listening to almost no-glare musical enjoyment. I am explaining the day-night difference assuming you've noticed your system sounding more musical at night than during the day.
Anyhow, I feel your system with the Threshold and B&W is a good match, however, they will reveal lots of glare if your ac is distorted. Oh, I have a Nakamichi preamp Ca7a that works fantastic with a Mapleshade powercord. The old Nak separates uses Nelson Pass designs. So maybe you should try a Mapleshade on your Threshold.
I have been udgrading for the last couple of years and I know what you mean about that harshness on the high end. You might consider the JM Lab speakers such as the Utopia Micro or Mini. I just bought the Mini's on audiogon and will be adding a REL subwoofer. These speakers have a very nice high end and are very open on vocals. I listened to many speakers including B&W's before I bought them. The metal dome tweeters on the B&W's are hard to tame. For low end the Mini's need a sub but are very enjoyable even without. Also, placement doesn't seem to be an issue. They sounded very good in a variety of positions.
I recently upgraded my CD player to a Cary 303 and am very impressed on the improvement in sound. It is very open, detailed has excellent extension and solves many of my complaints about high end harshness. I am now looking for other electronics. I have heard the Plinius and Sim Audio integrated and the Sim sounded better. It was more open, sweeter and musical. I have heard good things about the newer McIntosh integrateds but also have an interest the Conrad Johnson and YBA products.
Hi Mike. It seems to me that you've assembled a system that is definitely not your tastes, specifically revealing SS amps mated to revealing speakers. Maybe the first thing you should consider is a tube preamp to go with the Threshold, and if that's not enough of a shift for you then consider changing your speakers.
Just like many others, I use the Stereophile Recommended Components issues to learn about all the different gear out there. But more importantly I've learned that it's just a guide, and rely much more heavily on the reviews and diverse experiences of fellow audiophiles. And, buying used definitely reduces any cash losses.
Mike, I think you may be onto something with the soft dome tweeters. I'm using Vienna Acoustic Beethovens and I love them, I don't think I could ever go back to a Titanium or Aluminum dome tweeter, they all sound harsh to me now. I also recommend the Classe line of equipment. I currently own a CDP1 CD Player and CP60 preamp from Classe. They are both very musical. I did own a Classe CA-200 amp, and like it, but I've upgraded to a Threshold T400. The Threshold seemed to have better high end, detailed, but not bright or fatiguing. I haven't heard you mention tubes. You may want to check out some BAT gear as well.
Another thing you may look at is a nice analog rig. Many people can never come to grips with digital, no matter what equipment is used. Vinyl definitely is smoother on the top end.
Check out some of the Vienna Acoustic speakers, you may just fall in love with that silk, soft dome tweeter.
I hope this helps.
Hey Mike, Tom again :)
Well, you are getting lots of adivice, it's even confusing me and I'm not looking to change anything! Sean does point out something very true, Threshold Amps and Preamps are VERY revealing, as are the B&W's. So in my quest for the grail, I have always used that to my advantage; take two known factors to evaluate the third. And I have done it many times, to either improve the sound, or rule it out of the running. Sean also says that earlier Threshold amps, and here I have to bid nieve, were very load sensitive. My understanding of the 350E is that it is very much like my own S300 updated by Threshold to an E in I think 1994. Even that was a challenge as the first time Threshold sent it back, the soundstage lacked depth from what I was used to and Chris English was nice enough to put it in his system and tweak it up for me. It turned out that even though the unit was designed to run at 110 degrees, the depth opened up at 114 degrees amp temperature measured at the heatsink mounting screws. Nelson, Chris and Jon at Threshold have been nothing less than SUPERB with me. And yes, I may be a Threshold diehard, as I am with B&W, but when I find something that works, I'll stick with it. I've seen many names come and go, in fact my tonearm is one of them, "The Arm". I don't think I've ever even read a review about it anywhere but I'll never change it unless it breaks, and then I'll try another name I trust on the person that broke it; Colt Python. Good luck, I'm out of answers... Tom
Many thanks to you all, I can see that all is not lost. I think Sean has touched on some of my problem by pointing out that load matching may have been an issue with the Krell pre-amp and Threshold amp. Both of these pieces have been sold right here on Audiogon (Thanks to those buyers). I have also been fortunate enough to speak with John Rutan of Audio Connection, through whom I had a chance to meet Dennis Had of Cary. John remembered that my Theta DAC had an output of 7 volts, which, when hooked up with my other gear meant that I couldn't turn the volume on the Krell up past the nine-o-clock position, and most often it was closer to seven or eight o'clock. Perhaps not a good thing. Anyway, I sent the Theta in for a voltage gain reduction, which will help until I can upgrade the entire digital front end and only cost me about $ 100. I have also purchased a Cary SLP 2002 pre-amp and their new Rocket 88 tube amp. John has also been kind enough to offer me a loan of a Cary 303 CD player, to compare with the Theta. While I am waiting for the amp to arrive (which I can return if I am not happy!!!) I am using the time to install 3 dedicated lines per instructions I have read on old threads. I will be setting up my speakers on the long wall of a 19 x 14 room, with roughly a 9' triangle. There is a wool area rug over a felt pad, some artwork and a sofa on the rear wall, and some trees in the corners. If I can't make peace with the B&W's after all this, I will begin my quest for new speakers to match with the Cary gear. Thanks again for your interest and support. Mike
Be careful with the Cary CD player: You may get hooked and not want to have it leave your house! I just purchased a 306 which is incredible and I don't think the 303 is far behind. Why these units have stayed relatively low profile escapes me.
In another vein, should you still not be happy with the B&W's after the new equipment settles in, perhaps a look & listen at a couple of models from Audio Physic or Vienna Acoustics might be rewarding, although I'm not sure where you might be on the budget at this point.
I know what you mean about the CDP, and I do plan to upgrade from the Theta anyway, it may just happen sooner rather than later. Regarding your other point, I actually have auditioned the Audio Physic Virgo's and the Vienna Acoustics Mozart and Bach. The Virgo's were very detailed on top and a little forward for me, but possibly due to using solid state amp. Still a very nice combo though, BAT VK30SE and BAT VK200. Listened to the Vienna Acoustics and liked them alot, but they were hooked up with a cheap Marantz A/V receiver. Wonder if they would work with the Cary stuff?
hi, i had the same problem with the bright sounds and dynamics. when i switched to tubes it stopped. everything is easy to listen to and comforable. i have listened to all this so called audiofile equipment and it does not sound any better.i have learned no matter what the specs say or the high price it is not better, just different. if your amp has no background noise then what can be better! you can only hear so much. there is to much hype in audio. i have access to all types of audio. speakers for 50,000 who is believing this nonsense. price means nothing and has nothing to do with good sound. look and listen to equipment that you normally wouldnt. you may be surprized.
Mike, if the VA's sounded that good hooked up to a A/V receiver, imagine what they could do with quality amplification. It's the silk, soft dome tweeter man. I have my Beethovens hooked up to a Threshold T400, whew, awesome. If your B&W's have a metal tweeter, which I think they do, that may be your problem.
Try to see if you can audition some VA's at home, or in a system with better amplification. You may buy them, and end your problem.
Well, it's been three days since the Cary Rocket has arrived, and instead of the 303 CD player, John lent me the 306. I must say I have never heard B&W Matrix 802's sound better. Even though I am nowhere near the end of the break in period, I am amazed at the warmth of the sound I am hearing. Sure I gave up a small amount of visceral feel in the bass, but what I gained in the treble and midrange is spectacular! I certainly plan to live with the 802's for a while, heck maybe forever. Now though, when my Theta stuff comes back from California and I have to return the 306?