Why does it sound less dynamic?

It has been a great puzzle to me. I have upgraded my whole chain from a SFL-2 with a PA-7 STASIS amp from Nakamichi connected to some PBJs, three Racing cones connected to a pair of Gershman X-1s, and SW-1 companion woofers and some old japanese digital front end (CHEAP*) and switched the power cord to Synergistic Master Couplers and the set up sounded explosively dynamic etc . . . .and since then, I switched to Sonic Frontiers Power 2, and added the BEL CANTO DAC-1, to my Panasonic DVD player, which was wired with Synergistic Research Alpha Sterlings and the whole set up sounds worser than before. The soundstage is less dynamic, the inmediacy is gone and overall, I feel a lot less excited by the results. I would say that somehow the digital sound sounds a little more artificial and annoying than before. What is wrong? Is the amp slow sounding? Is the digital front end bad? What caused this problems? I need help with this connondrum
First I would check and make sure your amp and preamp are working properly and no tubes are defective. Also, make sure you are not getting any bad power spikes or RFI problems. I am not familiar with your speakers. I have a Bel Canto and have found that with the wrong cables and transport, it can sound closed in or bland. If you are using the power cord that came with the Bel Canto, suggest you replace that with almost anything else. I had to experiment for awhile until I got a combination of cables that worked best. Also, the Bel Canto takes a few weeks to settle in. I am not convinced that a DVD player is the best transport to use, but rather than get rid of it, a cost effective upgrade may be to get a used jitter reduction device.
I agree with Joe. Dvd players are for dvds,unless you go to the VERY high end. Look for a used transport. It shouldn't run you too much.
I think Joe and No_money are right on - I recently had to send my Meridian 200 transport in for repairs and substituted a Rotel 855 driving my Meridian DAC and the sound worsened considerably! The soundstage really suffered, much as you have described, just less real - no excitment at all. I lost alot of clarity also which can be related to that immediacy we all like. I had to listen to it this way for 6 weeks and never got used to it - I started watching more TV - bummer!!
Keep in mind that even where you position a cone under the equipment could influence the music coming out of your speakers. Seems that you need to play around with your setup and cabling to (possibly) get back to something closer to your previous "sound". Have you made the changes recently?
The above post should all be heeded, it is likely that there is an equipment mismatch. However, let me suggest another possibility, maybe your system doesn't "excite" because it is truly lower in distortion. In recording studios there are a number of different effect products that essentially add harmonic distortion to the music. As a generic group these products are called exciters. The make the music "hot", if only temporarily; long-term their use is quite irritating. In high end reproduction a similar situation can occur. A detailed, but higher distortion system can sound more interesting than a truly resolving, low distortion setup, at least in a direct comparison. What I'm really getting at is, if your system is evolving towards higher musical resolution, it might not sound more exciting, but instead sound more real.
The timeliness of this discussion is almost scary. Overall my system is at a level with which I am satisfied and it isn't likely to change much in the foreseeable future. Except for one thing. On certain recordings there is a slight sibilance on "S"s, mostly close-miked female vocals. Admittedly, I originally liked the extra "clarity." But it has now become "more detail than I need." Several changes (power cords, ICs, digital cable) masked it, but nothing seemed to actually remove it. That is, until this morning. The first track on Diana Krall's "All For You" (I belive the name is "Errand Girl for Rhythm") exemplfies the problem. Well, while listening to this CD before work the problem seemed to have somehow cleared up. Not completely, but there had definitely been an improvement. Interestingly, I did also perceive less "excitement" as mentioned above. There was enough difference that it caused me to listen, fruitlessly, for changes in dynamics, soundstage, etc. At the time the loss of excitement was attributed to it being BC (before coffee). Upon reading Sol322 and Onhwy61's comments a switch flipped and the light came on. Why would anything have suddenly changed? Oh yeah! There are binders weighing several pounds each sitting on both the transport and DAC where normally there is nothing. This was the only thing different from the normal setup. The loss of "excitement" *was* coupled with the easing of the sibilance. Looks like I've got some experimentation to do with vibration isolation. Thanks for the lead, guys.
To be honest, I am in this Quest or massive revamping mode. I got the SFL-2 on February and the PA-7 around the same time, then came the some cabling change, an Analysis Plus 12 wires
Analysis Plus which is not as great sounding as the company suggests, later, about three weeks ago I got the Subwoofers (SW-1) and then the Power 2s two weeks ago, the DAC-1 two weeks ago. I am wondering if I have overprepared the system and now, it needs some "cooking" time, before it shows the true colors. I believe that there were two many changes, without me gotten used to their ultimate sound and now I am paying the consequence. Perhaps, I should wait for months, before plugging back my old Yamaha+Music Fidelity X-10, and then sit and wait for some mystic light to appear. Talking about Sibilance that FPEEL spoke about, I used to have with the Yamaha, but it also had more body and immediacy, and now, the sound is sort of smoother but very non dynamic. Hum. This may simply mean that I might be a fan to the "distortion factor that is built in" in products as ONHWY 61 stated. Is it possible that I might have been carried away with the POWER 2, whose Net price was outragiously low and having ignored what the STEREOPHILE pack said about its sound as being "boring." Gosh, this is maddening. Any suggestions on set up and improvement would be appreciated. PS: Could it be that the interconnects that wire the preamp to a remote box (CREEK) and then to the POWER 2, a pair of Kimber PBJ are truly showing their ugly colors with the addition of the POWER 2? Maybe I need better cables. HUM Wondering PAUL
I agree with the cones needing to be played with with,and the sound being more real and less distorted(dynamic)..the "S" sound of some vocals do come out this way..remember if you were listening to it live it would do the same in some applications BUT!!! Please remember that if you upgrade you are only as good as your weakest link and the lower end synergistic interconnects are critical here in the transport of your SOUND! Move up to at least a synergistic resolution reference MKII or better..The most important dollar for dollar spent in cabling is between the source and the dac!!!PERIOD...good luck!
Paul: Don't want to thicken the plot but better equipment demands more from your house grid due to larger power consumption, transformers, capacitors etc. How is the power part? Do you have dedicated lines / grounding? Are the front end and amplifiers on the same circuit?
I second the point Mmkwf made about the cable between the transport and dac - it is without a doubt the single biggest improvement in cabling that I have ever made and I've made a bunch. BTW I have been using illuminati for several years now and couldn't be happier.
To Fpeel: Here's a cheap idea for you to experiment with-will cost you less than $10. Buy some large zip lock freezer bags and some sand. Fill the bags up with sand and put them on your transport, dac, pre and amplifier(s) (unless they already weigh a ton anyway-I'm dealing with budget equipment here). I think you'll notice some interesting improvements-I've got that Diana Krall cd as well and like "Hit that jive, Jack" as far as listening for the other guys in the band singing, separation of voices etc. If you like what you hear with the sand, I'd also highly recommend vibrapods-they are cheap and very effective. Good isolation is key to getting maximum performance out of your equipment, whether it's good budget gear or super high end. It may actually appear to sound "less dynamic" but in many cases, I agree with the above posts that the supposed dynamics is really distortion that you're hearing.
Hi Bemoptil23; You've essentially thrown out your "old" system and started a whole new one sort of "all at once"-- and without any auditioning? As you need a base to start from, I'd suggest building your system around your SFL-1 pre-amp (is it still your pre-amp?) and SF Power 2 amp with good ICs between them. These two components should match well electronically. BTW, forget that totally unprofessional comment in Stereophile about the Power 2 being "boring", ie read the rest of the review carefully, and consider that this amp was placed in their Class A rating; also there are three other Stereophile reviewers that use the Power 2 or 3 as their reference(s). There are also many other reviews that say this amp is excellent. Short term, get rid of that remote control thing to keep the pre-amp/amp connection simple. The component that I would most suspect of causing a problem sonically is the Panasonic DVD player, ie sometimes DVD players are poor CD players, ie try a recommended Rotel or NAD (or better) standard CD player. Don't have much else to say-- again, you just need to start somewhere, and I've always believed that the Pre-amp/amp are the heart of a good system. BTW, the SFL-1 can sound soft,warm, and romantic with Mullard tubes, but dynamics are sacrificed somewhat. As suggested above, make sure all your tubes are good. System building can be fun, but time consuming so be patient too-- you've got some good equipment to work with. Best of Luck. Craig.
Thanks, especially for the last poster. I have a SFL-2, not the SLF-1. I still would like to have the remote volume capability, especially because of the extreme swings of volume that occur with certain CDs. Do you think that this volume box, which was claimed to be nonintrusive, does affect the sound that much? With the Nak amp, it still sounded fine. Nevertheless, I get this feeling that the DVD player is what is dragging down the set up, after all, it is the source that I am complaining about. All my other sources, I am satisfied with. By the way, I do not have a dedicated power line nor do I know the sequence in which my equipment has been set up. I reside in an apartment, therefore, what I get from the outlets, is what I have to deal with. Regretable, but is the truth. I do not want to run extension cords, even if I did find out which would begin the sequence in the power grid. I guess that some people really rewire their whole house wiring around their stereo needs. That makes me feel like I am a peanut size audiophile:) Thanks once again for all the great comments!
Hi Bemoptil23; The SFL-2 is the best pre-amp SF ever made IMO. I auditioned one for a week, but didn't keep it because of excess transformer hum. I liked it's sound even better than the Line 3 (I use a Line 2 though). I just suggest not using your Creek volume control temporarily, ie until you work out other music quality issues, then add it back in later on-- but I'd sure want to try your system with just a simple pair of ICs between pre-amp and amp w/o the complexity of the vol. control. Sounds like you're on the right track. Cheers. Craig.
......re: AC power supply. Later on if you feel your power supply is not good, you could add a PS Audio P300 at least to your source components and pre-amp. They have a 30 day try out policy. I do have a dedicated AC system and ground, but still plan to try the P300. Craig.
Hi, I have the SFL-2 and thought about the transformer hum. When I first got it, it did hum and I did notice it, but after it has had the opportunity of warming it up, it is dead quiet. Now I do not even notice it, because I leave it on "standby" mode and it has not hummed ever since. I will try the suggestion with the volume box from Creek. I am waiting to get a pair of ICs, SONIC HORIZON cables as advertised on HCM store. Perhaps, their cables will aliviate and give me the sound that I am searching for....I still suspect that the Kimber PBJ are the major culprits. Thanks once again!