Which way should I go?

I have a system of top-notch components that sound absolutely terrible together. The midrange shouts at you and the high frequencies can become harsh on all but the smallest scale music. My speakers are B&W Matrix 802 series II. The Amp is a Threshold s/350e 150 wpc with a Krell KBL preamp. Source components include the Theta Digital Data II universal transport and their pro Gen II D/A converter. I have tried a conrad johnson hybrid pre-amp, which didn't make the night and day difference I am looking for given the cost needed to make the change. Should I be looking to change speakers, or should I be looking at electronics? I have heard that Levinson matches well with my speakers, but of course the cost is prohibitive. I would like to try and get away with changing only one thing if that is at all possible.
Have you tried a de-jitter box? Nothing sounds wrong with your equipment. Also, what cables are you using? What about room acoustics? Bare floors? You might be the unwitting victim of jitter -- try getting something like a Meridian 518 and see if that does anything for you. Email me for more if you'd like. Shawn Harvey sharve@acxiom.com
1)Try Cardas cables(Cross for interconnects and speaker). 2)Forgive me but the only good piece you have is loudspeakers.Theta components are known for spitting sounds not delivering music,most Krells suck as well. I would try building new system back from speakers.Can't suggest anything without knowing your price points and music you like.
Sorry I have to agree with Mikhail's opinion, except I don't think MOST Krells suck, ALL KRELLS SUCK! The Threshold is not that musical either. Thresholds were not bad around 15 years ago, but they have not kept up with the times. Keep your speakers and start all over again. You ought to try auditoning a couple of more musical electronics from companies like Rotel, Nad, Musical Fidelity or Arcam. They all have great musical systems starting at around $400 for and integrated amp and $400 for a CD player. At this level you would already have a system that you will enjoy listening to. With $1500 you can have a system that will start you on your way to real high end pleasure. rgds, david k.
Thank you both for your input, it appears as though my worst fears are true and that I will need to make substantial changes to my system to make it listenable. I have read on other sites that Rowland electronics with B&W are superb, but there is that cost issue again. I also heard good things about B&W with McCormack, Audio Research solid-state, and even Adcom. I would like to hear from anyone with experience with any of these combinations. Also, the Theta transport was touted as the best transport in stereophile for many years, even if a change in D/A is warranted. I listen to primarily small scale acoustic music, vocals, some classical and jazz, and the occasional loud rock in a room about 3,000 sq. ft. I've tried room-tunes, all manner of cables, and found that none of it made any difference. Thanks, and keep the constructive criticism coming.
Unless it is a misprint your room is huge and you need a tremendous output from loudspeakers to get undistorted sound.In this case prepare to spend inches of $100 bills. Rowlands are at least good for almost any set up and worth every cent of the cost,Audio Research is mostly tube company and their solid state amplifiers can't even approach Rowlands;I would not consider McCormack,Adcom,Rotel etc.Besides Rowland I would suggest Electrocompaniet,maybe Plinius;if you want to try tube electronics first give a chance to Aronov Audio.Personally,I don't like dealing with separate front end components,it consumes energy and money big time.Try C.E.C 5100Z belt-drive player(on huge sale in audioadvisor.com).If it is not good enough then check Copland 266,Metronome or something else up from $2000.00.Sorry to upset you but that's what money is for,right? Mikhail.P.S.Do not hide behind 'Stereophile',there are better ears and brains.
Mikhail: Yes, obviously my room is 300 and not 3000 sq. ft., sorry. When you say you don't like separate front end components, what do you mean? Do you prefer integrated amps or would you feed a CDP output directly to the amp? Thanks for the recommendations on the components, I will certainly listen to the Electrocompaniet amp/pre-amp, and the Plinius as well. They both appear to be available on the used market at reasonable prices whereas the Rowland seems to be more difficult to find, and their cost even used is more than I really wanted to spend.
I meant digital front end.At best separates are superior but it involves matching of three components to themselves(transport,dac and digital cable) and to a preamplifier,and you do not want to spend a fortune.I never tried running signal directly to power amplifier though read a lot about it;it probably can be judged only on case by case basis.When you go auditioning Electrocompaniet use the same company's cd player.It is very costly(about $4000.00) but it will serve as a reference for the rest of the system that you are going to assemble and will show you how good an integrated player can be.I would buy this player or Copland 389($4200.00) if I could.You are right about Rowlands,people do not sell them because they are so good and the company's support is among the best.However,I saw a few times Jeff Rowland's Concentra integrated used for $3800.00 or so and demo.unit for $4500.00.If you still go for Rowlands make note that Jeff uses Cardas wiring and try Cardas cables before other brands.I hope that you will find what you are looking for.Mikhail.
I'm not surprised by the sound you have described given your choice for DAC and amp. The Theta stuff (particularily their older stuff) had a harsh and bright top end and lacked warmth. The Thershold equipment has always sounded very "solid state" to me. That solid state charecter is an electronic sound to the music, very artificial sounding. Lot's of sharp detail, really crystal clear, but lacking warmth and musicality. I haven't heard the 802's but heard the 801's several times. I've heard them sound real good and real bad. Being driven buy a Levinson No. 23/26 combo they sounded very much as you described. Driven by a pair of Kebshall 35/70 tube monoblocks and an ARC preamp, they were fantastic. Your preamp is real good and would work well with a lot of different amps. If you want to keep your speakers, I would start by looking for a different amp. If you don't mind tubes, there are several good tube amps available on the used market for not too much money. I just saw an ARC Classic 60 with balanced in's on RAM for something like $1100. If you don't play music too loud, this will probably be enough power and should sound great. Most of the amps from ARC, CJ, Sonic frontiers, etc. should work well with the 802's. If you want to stay with a solid state amp, I think the Bryston 4B ST sounds really good for the money. I'm not so sure it can completely tame your system though. The Classe amps tend to have a warm, rich midrange, very tube like but I found the top end to sound dark (rolled off). I also felt they lacked in over all resolution though they were musical. It's not really my kind of sound but might make your system more listenable for not too much cash. If yoo want to keep your electronic, look for a speaker that tends to be warm and has good bass. I'm not too sure what will work good with that combo. Good luck.
Either ditch the Theta or have it upgraded to the III or the V. I bought the Theta Pro Gen II in 1992. Even though it was one of the best DACs around at the time, DACs have become much warmer the years including the Theta. When I had the Theta upgraded from the II to the III, the difference was truly "night and day". The III was much more warm and far less "in your face" than the II. In fact I still use a Theta Pro Gen II in my home theatre which can definitely be too bright at times - but this is less of an issue for movies and the bass is still quite good. If the cost of to upgrade the Theta is unacceptable or if Theta takes three years or more to get your upgrade done (their customer service is pathetic) - why not just dump the Theta and switch to a Sonic SFD2 Mark II DAC?. I have also owned this DAC and found it to be much warmer and smoother than the Theta and this should help your system alot. As you may know prices are real soft on the Sonic equipment right now. You can buy this $5300 DAC for less than $1500. Less the $600 or so you might get for the Theta the change in DACs should cost you less than a grand.
If you have a large undamped room those speakers must go. They should be easy to sell there is a lot of so called audiophiles that like B&W. This will be the most economical way to start. Hopefully you have a local dealer that can come to your house and check it out