Who's to blame for the Grain??

I have a very very entry level system that I upgrading piece by piece. What I've noticed is that when I listen to music with vocals, there's a grainy texture to everyones voice. I don't hear that smoothness that I've heard from systems out the hi-end shops. I was curious whether there was a specific part of the chain that can cure the GRAIN. Is it interconnects, pre-amp, power amp, speaker cables or source. I am not using a power cord or a power conditioner,,,,,,,,,,,could this be the cause?
Blame it on your transistor equipments like pre-amp and power amp.
I am not using a power cord or a power conditioner,,,,,,,,,,,could this be the cause?
Yes. I was also experiencing similar issues regarding 'grungies'. A high current line conditioner (capable of enough power for even the amp) helped tremendously. Later I began experimenting with upgrade AC cords & the noise floor was reduced even further.
You don't mention your particular equipment, but if it includes a CDplayer then cleaning up your AC power is typically critical. Solid State / Tubes / or whatever / is hardly the issue here. In fact --- tubes made matters even worse when I tried them, so never again.

Even after looking at your other threads, I cannot ascertain what equipment you're currently using. If we knew the makeup of your system, including cabling, it would go a ways to help us understand some of the possible problems and suggest some remedies.

Also, a description of your listening room including approximate dimensions (including ceiling height), floor coverings (if any) and wall hangings/construction (brick fireplace, drapes?) can help those versed in room acoustics (like Rives) to provide some meaningful input.

Let us know!
Meech, more info. Whatcha got there? Electronics? Speakers? Front end? Cables/cords? We need the WHOLE nine yards, and then we can help ya. peace, warren
Ok guys,,,,,,,,,,,,,,you asked,,,,,,,,,so here it goes. Please don't laugh. I'm using a Sony ES Receiver as a pre-amp and a Parasound HCA-1500(205wpc) as a power amp. My cd player is a Sony 400 disc changer. My speakers (which I'll be changing in 2 weeks to the Polk LSI9's) are Klipsch Reference towers. I have Audioquest Anaacondas as interconnects and Monster M2.4 bi-wire as speaker cables.

Again,,,,,,,,,I know this system needs a lot of work. I hope to have an entirely respectable system within a year but my budget only allows me to accomplish this one piece at a time. I wan't to buy pieces that will make the most significant improvement in the sound.
Ditch the CD changer for a good single disk player. That would be my first suggestion. Later on you can upgrade other pieces, but for now the player will help a lot.
Sadly could be all of the above. I've heard grainy interconnects, speaker cables, power cords, CD playere, amplifiers, etc, etc, etc.
The Sony pre is the WORST item currently in your system. If I had any money, that would be the first to be swapped out.
Plenty of choices available, The cheapest I would seek is a Hafler DH110, Used only, cost about $125 to $175. A nice preamp, budget priced ,and MILES better than that Sony.
Other folks will suggest other stuff... This is my recommendation. And maybe a line conditioner for all but the amp. (adcom ACE 515 or Monster 2000 at $110 used are about right for your budget.
When trying to fix multiple problems on your upgrade path I've heard many say, and I agree, begin with your source. I agree with Philefreak. Start with a good CD player (used or new).
When trying to fix multiple problems on your upgrade path I've heard many say, and I agree, begin with your source. I agree with Philefreak. Start with a good CD player (new or used).
I don't think there's any cheap solution. Maybe an antique sound labs integrated with an ah tjoeb and horn shoppe speakers???

If you're into music I honestly wouldn't bother trying to do HT and 2 channel. It takes a load of $. I've been through too much gear. I will agree with most and say that your source and then your pre-amp are the places to start.

Here is what I would do if I had to rebuild:

Equitech's least expensive product
Nottingham Horizon w/dynavector Dv-20xh
Vecteur CD player or An Ah, Heart, or other tube based CD player.
A Fi X 2A3 amp
and for speakers:

I think less maybe more. Sorry to hit you over the head with exspensive gear. I was in much worse shape than you when I started out.
Sure, your CDP and preamp aren't the first things you'd think of for a high end system, but you're really not as far behind as you make it seem. I would address the preamp before the CDP, for various reasons - both logistical and sonic - that I'll refrain from elaborating on here, because the main thing I want to say is:

Don't do anything else right now if you're getting new speakers in two weeks! Break the speakers in for at least 100 hours over a couple of weeks, maybe leaving the CD on repeat while you're away from the house. Then spend another couple of weeks auditioning and assessing the sound with the broken-in new speakers in place. Firstly, your ears need to adjust to the new sound. Secondly, if these are the speakers you'll be keeping for a while, then any other system changes you make subsequently will need to work with the sound of those speakers. Plus, if those speakers turn out to be significantly better than what they're replacing, they'll help you hear what's going on with your other gear by providing a 'clearer window' with which to audition and assess for upgrades, letting you make more intelligent and effective choices.

Be patient and change things one step at a time (as you say, your budget forces this anyway). The worst thing you can do for trying to travel a predictable, or at least understandable, path for upgrading is to change a bunch of stuff at once willy-nilly. Limit your variables and take your time, and you'll make more cost-effective decisions. Your new speakers are going to sound vastly different from your present speakers, a bigger overt difference than you'll get from changing any one piece of electronics or wires, so approach this 'grain' question afresh once you're comfortable with their sound (and yes, it could even turn out that your current speakers were a part of the problem).
The source. I believe that is always the best place to start. It's going to be the beginning of the end of your system as you know it, now. Welcome to the world of audiomania. Have fun and go with it. Start with the best cdp you can go for. You'll be on your way. You will, eventually, get rid of that grain. WARNING: there are plenty of other things out there to bother you (soundwise) other than, just, grain. With my 2 cents as well as everybody elses, you'll have a few bucks worth of good suggestions. peace, warren
Thanks for all the advice guys. I think I'll be upgrading my source first. I haved to admit,,,,,,,,,,,I kinda like the convenience of having all of my cd's in one player but I always knew that the CD changer would have to go. I've been reading good things about that new Philips 963 Cd player. I've also heard that tube cd players are supposed to be extremeley smooth ( Jolida, AH tjoeb, etc).

Zaikesman-----I will take your advice. I will wait until the new speakers get hear before I make any changes. This will also give me a few weeks to save up a litlle more money. Maybe during that time I can narrow down my choice of the best cd player for my system. I really do like the way that Shanling CD-T100 looks but from what I hear, it looks a lot better than it sounds. That would take me almost 2 months to save for anyway.

Any more suggestions on a good starter Pre-amp?
I find Zaikesman's advice excellent, because it does not swamp you with subjective recommendations, but tells you how to proceed carefully and objectively. After all it is YOUR ears and YOUR pocketbook. Grain is indeed a nasty thing to have and to my experience it is most often in the amplification chain, sometimes in the speakers, rarely in the wires, sometimes in the "juice", depending where you live and the quality of your power-grid. But that I would tackle last, if at all. I would follow Zaike's advice and familiarise myself with the new speakers first, before proceeding to the preamp. Perhaps you could borrow a unit from somebody and see what difference it would make. If it does not, I would first try switching interconnects and learn about their influence on sound, before tackling the amp, always trying to borrow gear and to experiment. It takes time and patience, especially the latter, because as Z. has so rightly pointed out, you should limit your variables, best in one step at a time. Happy experimenting!
First, how is your cd player connected? Digital or Analog? If you are using digital then a tube cd player is not going to help you unless you switch to a non-digitizing pre-amp (or you have analog bypass). If you are using digital, look at the Audio Alchemy DTI, for $50 it will help to remove a lot of digital hash. I went through a similiar situation and decided to split my HT from my 2 channel. Ended up selling my klipsch for less forward w/ss speakers. I chose a PS Audio 6.0 linestage pre-amp which ran about $225. The difference between analog on the pre vs. analog/digital (if your receiver does analog to digital conversion they are going to sound almost the same) on the receiver was much bigger than switching cd players (i had a sony sacd player and a denon cd player). The moster HTS2000 was a big step, although the new 2100 you can get on ebay has a 2800 joule rating vs. the 1775 joule rating of the 2000 series. The power conditioner really helped to lower the noise floor and the anti-jitter filter really made the digital much more livable. I also tended to only make one change at a time so I could get used to living with the components and then making one change and auditioning it with source material I was very familiar with.
If you like the convenience of your multi-disc arrangement, look into purchasing a DAC. If your player only has an optical out, i would recommend a Cal Audio Labs unit. If it has a coaxial digital out, i would opt for an EVS Millennium unit. The EVS is far more refined than the CAL if you can use it, but you might not be able to. As such, i tried to cover both bases with excellent units that offer phenomenal bang for the buck. Some would recommend the MSB unit, but given your current preamp / amp / speaker combo, i would not go that route.

If you need a Toslink, i would recommend either the glass Toslink cable found on Ebay or a plastic model as sold by DH Labs. Coaxial based digital cables come in all shapes and sizes and will boil down to personal preference.

This will give you far more enjoyable music and allow you to maintain the level of convenience that you are currently able to take advantage of. While some will see this as a trade-off, life and system building are all about intelligent compromises. For those that have used such things as a music server or a mega-disc changer, it is hard to adapt to using a single or five disc unit for more than a few reasons. I find that these people tend to use their system less as they find it to be more of a hassle. As such, i think that once a person has gone that route, they are best off to optimize what they have ( within reason ) and have both the quantity that they are used to with much improved quality.

Other than that, you can always upgrade your preamp, amp and speakers while maintaining both a musical and convenient front end. While you may not achieve the most revealing system in this manner, you will probably find it far more user friendly and enjoyable in the long run. Sean

PS... I don't think that your preamp, amp or speakers are a good match. Changing over to the speakers that you mention will probably not be much of a step forward either. Yes, it will sound "different", but that does not make it "better". Sit down and figure out what your long term goals are and then go from there. Otherwise, you will be joining those that are members of the "used" flavour of the month club.
I have similar problem, but unlike Elizabeth to put the blame on Sony pre, I agree with some other suggestion on the CD player.
My Sony AV can filter "digital hash" much better than some others I have, Nakamichi 410/420, Nakamichi 730, Bryston .4, NAD 302, NAD 7155....
Your system is quite decent in my standard, and base on my experience, your problem is easily solvable.
I once swapped Sony cheapo 5 disk changer to DVP-S530, then up to DVP-7700, but the "grain" is still there, ofcourse less and less, but when I went "down" to DVP-7000, it's 70-80% clearer, finally I found a deal on 7XAES, it's 95%.
Still little grain, but bearable.

The level of grain was not changed with amp, from NAD 2200 to NAD 2600, Bryston 3B, Nak 420, Bryston 9B.

I'm not a cable believer, but I'm looking into it now.
i'm listening
I think I've just fallen in love with a speaker. I've been considering getting the Polk LSI9's to replace my Klipsch Reference Floorstanders. That was until I heard what I heard today. Paradigm Studio 100's. Oh my GOD,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,I think I finally get it. I've been hearing about tight bass for almost a year now and I never quite understood that phrase. Well I heard tight bass today,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,and I'm thoroughly impressed. I think I'm going to get the studio 20's instead of the Polks. I'll complement them with a sub that's known for tight bass (Rel Strata III). It's going to be a long summer. I would get the 100's but my living room is way too small for floorstanders which is why I selling the Klipsch.
I started out like you.
I had Polk speakers, a Sony ES receiver, and a cheap-ass sony CD.
I added a Parasound HCA 1000A amp, and used the sony as a preamp. Better sound.

At some point, I bought a Parasound CD player, to replace the Sony. Better sound again.

I bought a Conrad Johnson Preamp- the PV-10AL. Got the Sony REceiver totally out of the system. FYI I was using AUdioquest Topaz (cheap stuff) and CV-4 speaker cable (really cheap stuff). Incredible sound(compared to what I'd had before). IT was like my eyes and ears were open for the first time.

Clearly, the largest improvement I found was by going to a Tube based preamp. There are several out there, hell, you could even get a Jolida integrated amp for what a decent preamp costs. Those things sound great.

My final answer- calm down. Chill out. Listen to some tunes.
Decide what $$ you're going to spend on some speakers. IF you waited 4 months, would that amount change greatly?
IF so, I'd wait. Buying a speaker today with no bass, and then waiting until you have the extra grand to pick up a Rel sub might not be the best thing. Plus, how do you know that they'l mate well? IF you're room is too small for a floorstander, it's too small for a sub, IMHO. Just get a bookshelf speaker with a little kick to it. THe bass will be fine.
If I were you, I'd do this:

Sell the Anaconda- Yes, it's great stuff, but you're not getting close to even needing that level of resolution. With the Sony stuff, if anything you need a more forgiving IC. FInd yourself 2 pairs of Audioquest Opalx3, a very, very good cable (I haven't heard of anyone that didn't think it was a good cable, even at its $300 list price, before it was discontinued.) Or Kimber Hero, or something else USED. Should be about $100 per meter pair. IF you only have 1 pair of Anaconda, or if you have 2 half meter pairs, that should be at least $300 left over. IF you have 2 1 meter pairs, then you should gain about $5-600 by this. Trust me, you won't miss it, not this year. IF you do this, you'll have some extra cash to either supplement your speakers, or add a better CD, or get a preamp.

Sorry to ramble on, and even sorrier to cast doubt on any decisions you've made. I just can't see what your loving the Big Paradigms has to do with the sound of the smallerr ones.

I think finding a speaker that you love will be the toughest task, and that's where I'd spend the majority of my money.

Even if it means waiting.

IF you can't wait:

Buy a Rega Planet CD- $350 used. Worth Every Penny.
Get the Cheap ICs (seriously, Opal is great stuff. Viper, in the new AQ line is most comparable.

IF you're not ready for a tubed integrated amp, at the minimum, at least figure out how to listen in your home, to a tubed pramp with your Parasound. You won't believe your ears how it smoothes out the sound. You can probably find a Conrad Johnson PV-10AL for $500. There are MANY MANY other fine manufacturers of tubed gear. I use ROgue right now. Made in the USA!!

Hold on to the Parasound for the near future. It's a competent piece. Not familiar with the Monster Cable Speaker cable. BUT- when I had speaker that were "too much" for my room, I sold the 10 gauge speaker cable that I was using, and got a smaller gauge cable. It tightened up the midbass, and yes, lost some low bass volume, but the point is, I could live with my large speaklers in the small room.

IF I ever moved, I could just get som more firehose cable...

SPeakers, speakers, speakers. I have no idea what you're budget is. IF you can, go out of town. Visit some different shoppes, listen to new things. Once I had an idea of what I liked, I started buying speakers (unheard) used on AUdiogon.
After a while, I found some that I loved. (I still have them).

Anyway, good luck. I'm sure that I've rambled on far too long, but If you want to email me off the thread, I'll talk with you as long as you want.

I've been there, and it will be OK!

I'll throw in my support for the pre. maybe even a properly impedance matched 10Kohm ALPS pot for $35 with SHORT interconnects.
No need to apologize for your system. Don't give in to the peer pressure of spending a lot of money for status. Buy because it sounds good to you. IMHO.
Agree with Gthirteen that the sound of the large Paradigms should not be taken as a stand-in for the sound of the small Paradigms. Were you actually able to listen to the 20's? Anyway, choosing your speakers first is the correct path in my opinion. Just take your time and audition things thoroughly, using YOUR music, and in more than one visit if possible. Be reasonably comprehensive as your situation allows, resisting the impulse to fall in love at first listen. Also, keep in mind the entire chain of gear you're hearing when you audition a speaker...
Buy a tube integrated amplifier ,then upgrade your source, then your speakers
Thought you wanted less grain ,there speakers might impress in the showroom but get them home ,they have no soul .Try a full range driver based speaker ,there are many ,like Cain & Cain there abby speak sells for $1500 ,That with a tube integrated amplifier like a antique sound labs or sofia electric.Even the best solid state has grain .And speakers with large crossover networks sap the soul out of the music.good luck with your search.!!
I agree onthe Tube integrated.
A Jolida that doesn't use el34 tubes will give you the bass (mostly) that you, no doubt, crave.

I've never owned Jolida, but their all tube amps are super for teh $$.
There's several on the goN right now.

What's up with you, Meech?
Let us know.
Because you're at a nascent stage and on a limited budget, I'm going to suggest something a little more radical, and something I wish someone would have done for me when I was starting out.

First, I wouldn't buy anything right now. As good as some of the specific suggestions may be, I doubt any of them will cure you for long. I'm sure your system has more issues than just "grain" - you just haven't focused on all of them yet. In fact, no system on a low budget will be near perfect. The problem I see with changing one component at this level is that it is difficult to make a meaningful change. You may mitigate the "grain" issue with one purchase, but then the new/better component may expose weaknesses in your other equipment. This is the start of the equipment merry-go-round and will likely put you right back on this board asking a similar question.

So, what's the answer (on a budget)? I would recommend a few things.

First, obtain more audiophile knowledge before spending more money on audiophile products. I highly recommend Robert Harley's book for anyone, especially beginners. Everyone has two ears, but it's knowledge of what to listen for and what factors influence what your hearing that will get you quicker to your audiophile destination. The message boards are ok, but it's limited and hard to tell good/bad information.

Second, you should apply your increased knowledge and listen to as many systems as possible. Currently, you noticed the "grain" problem by comparing your system to a dealer's. The more systems you listen to, the better you will become in noticing the aspects you like and components that deliver it. There are no shortcuts to this knowledge. I'd get it on the cheap by listening to other people's system, dealer's systems, etc versus making numerous personal buying mistakes.

In particular, I would highly recommend attending the HE2003 show in San Francisco For the price of an audiophile power cord, you can probably fly there and spend a few days doing nothing but listen to a bunch a different systems in quite difficult environments. You should pick up alot of information listening and talking with manufacturers.

While most systems at such a show may be out of your price range, it may work to your advantage. Once you visit a budget room like Music Hall, Odyssey, etc, you will likely notice that the sound is pretty comparable to the "big boys" and realize that system synergy and quality budget components go a long way. Once you've come to this conclusion and gained a level of comfort, you may come to the same conclusion as my specific suggestion for you... sell all your existing components and buy a complete budget system that you've heard together and are happy with.

If you haven't heard anything at your budget level that makes you happy, DON'T buy anything until you can save up and afford more. This approach requires more initial patience, but it will save you lots of frustration and money in the long run.
I agree with Labtec to a certain extent, noone is going to get it right with one upgraded component, no matter who you are, if you're starting out with some not so good stuff.
You're going to have to upgrade each piece, and possibly, such as is common with us less than wealthy types, you do it in stages, and save tons of cash by making careful purchases on the used market.

While I would love to attend a HiFi show myself, I don't think that there is any way around the learning curve/subsequent purchasing/selling/repurchasing of equipment while you "learn" what you like. I've had good equipment, with good synergy in several different incarnations, but my tastes have changed over the years. I buy and sell components and accessories based on what it will do when inserted into my system.

Here's where Labtec has a good point. Buying an entire system as one unit can be great. I don't think that any one manufacturer makes a total package that would suit me. But there are dealers out there that I've visited that can put together some really good systems at great prices. It's about having access to different lines of gear, and having the love to sit there and fiddle around and make some good music, in addition to answering the phones, etc. However, unless Meech can find a dealer near him that will extend credit (or borrow money for gear-I've done it) it will be difficult to make 1 large purchase.

I guess I still think that the best way is to find some people that you trust, that have some knowledge on the subject, and ask for advice. Also, it helps to know what you're looking for, as "better" system can mean lots of different things to different people.

I hope Meech hasn't thrown it all out the window, as I've been tempted to do at times.
The only way to fully understand what a system "should" sound like is to listen to live music in a good accoustical setting. A rule of thumb - if the music is amplified in any way, it will have some degree of distortion / coloration. Good luck in the journey!!
Hey,,,,,,,,,,,,how's everyone doing.

First of all I want you guys to know that I have read every single post and I appreciate all of your feedback. And yes Gthirteen,,,,,,,,,,,,,,I'm on the verge of tossing everything out the window.

I'm kinda short on time right now but I will respond when I get home tonight.

Just wanted to drop a quick thank you.'

By the way,,,,,,,,,,,,I was almost convinced that an affordable tube pre-amp would solve my problem UNTIL LABTEC spoke about being patient! I know that's great advice but tell that to my ears who have to listen to this shit until my pockets get enough cash to upgrade. I'm determined to put together the ultimate giant killer budget system within the next 6 months.
(don't get me wrong labtec,,,,,,,,I really did read and appreciate your advice but I'm very, VERY impatient) My middle name is 'Learn The Hard Way'.

Anyway,,,,,,,,,,,,I'll back tonight.
Meech, Before you sell the farm-Try a PS Audioultimate outlet. 30 days money back.If you decide to start over,here are some ideas that may help.1.select speakers2.PS Audio P300 power plant (most profound change in sound quality)-used approx.600.003.PS Audio UO-use upstream of the P300 to isolate the digital source.4.power cord for amp.These are some of things that have worked for building the best system I could afford piece by piece. Tubes are great, just like children-as long as you do not mind the care & feeding required.$$$$$$$$$