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Am I going wrong somewhere? Your advice and views, please.

Where to start....?!


I like music a lot. Always wanted to be around music, listening to it, having it act as a real-time soundtrack to my life. Nothing beats those goosebumps during a 'good bit', and I mean nothing.

My great-grandfather was a 'child prodigy' on the harp, of all instruments. My great-grandmother was a well-known singer of opera music. My grandmother wrote music and sang beautifully. Unfortunately their talent didn't filter down through the gene pool (either that or there is something my parents aren't telling me...). I got to Grade 1 (Merit) in violin at my first school, and was moved from trumpet to euphonium and all around the brass section at my secondary school, acting as little more than the musical equivalent of hamburger helper to help bulk out the sound.


Anyway, the closest I was ever going to get to a musical career was helping out, so I decided to do an OND in Sound Engineering + Music Production. This was fun but involved too much cable-bashing for my liking and I felt as close to music as a pit-stop technician feels to the driver of the racing car itself. But it did teach me about the basics of recording music which principally boiled down to getting the music from the musician's left brain to my ears, with as few steps and as little colouration in between as was humanly possible.


After a letter to Trevor Horn (King of Music Producers) for some advice I was lucky enough to get an interview at his Sarm West recording studio; but due to the fact that I lived in Gloucestershire, had no car, and Sarm West was in London where I had no handy friends with living-room floors to kip on, this was always going to be a non-starter.

 

So that was the end of that....

 

A well-paid job on the High Seas allowed me to spend a bit of money on some HiFi gear. Reading the various reviews in the hifi magazines (amongst which was this august publication) I picked up firstly a Rega Mira amplifier, then a Rega Planar turntable, and a pair of Dynaudio 52 loudspeakers. All five star kit, if I remember the reviews correctly. I had proper stands and everything. My music sounded bigger, but not incredible. Still, the kit did its job. Came back to the UK, went to Uni to get a degree, sold the kit to help pay for it. Finished Uni, got another job and promptly bought the same kit all over again (stick with what you know, right?) and this time I added a Marantz CD63SE player.

 

Then one day I ventured into a local HiFi store, got talking to an advisor, who seemed to know his onions and “Gasp!”, wasn't patronising. I grumbled that my system was fine but did not impress or really satisfy. He asked me if I'd just bought all the 'best-buys' in my budget range and simply plopped them together. I said I had. He said a lot of people do the same thing. Stupidly, I let him play me something on a Cyrus CD6S and that was it. Thin end of the wedge. The slippery slope. Abandon hope all ye who enter here. Not only was I sold on the sound, the whole upgrade-ability thing appealed to the OCD gene within me.

 

So I went ahead and bought one. I was hooked; it was like having a whole new music collection again. And a few weeks later I went back for the Cyrus PreVs2 and Cyrus 8 Power amps. The improvement was definite, noticeable and spectacular. I started getting decent interconnects (Atlas Equator, and the now-discontinued Myryad brand). Better. Jump to a pair of Monitor Audio GS10's and some Genesis Silver Spiral speaker cable, at first single wired, then bi-wiring. Cor! I then added a Cyrus X Power and bi-wired the lot. Fantastic! I topped everything off by adding the Cyrus PSX-R dedicated power supplies (I was initially very cynical about what increment of improvement would be added by these, but was soon convinced).

 

The sound kept getting better but was never quite there, if you get my meaning. I traded the CD6S up for a jolly good deal on the Cyrus CD8SE and finally succumbed to the dreaded eBay for a killer deal on a showroom pair of Tannoy DC8 stand-mount loudspeakers; I was sorry to see the GS10's go but oh boy, what a sound! A pair of Cyrus Mono X's to replace the 8 Power brought the whole lot to its current glory.

 

So I now find I've spent the best part of 10K by adding and adding and adding and I'm now a little stuck. I think I've hit a plateau and am experiencing the full force of the law of diminishing returns. My system sounds really good, but the music is still not quite there enough; I want it to sound clearer, more defined and more present. My friend and colleague says you know you've made it when you can no longer hear the system, only the music itself. However, I have a mortgage and need to eat; I've also changed jobs and taken a pay cut so I can't upgrade any further.

 

So the question I have for you (and thanks if you are still reading), is: Could I do better elsewhere, go along a parallel track, as it were? Do I sell the lot (ouch!) and sidestep to another set-up? I've heard great things said about Naim, Linn, Chord Electronics and many others. However, I always trust my ears and have heard a lot of kit that is supposed to sound good, but actually doesn't. I think we can all get sucked in by killer-looking kit with huge price-tags. It should sound great, so we believe it does (must be some aural equivalent of the placebo effect!) Even my trusted HiFi shop has got it wrong on the odd occasion – I popped in one day and they had proudly set up some top-of-the-range Chord gear; everyone was standing around looking very pleased, until I rather timidly suggested that it sounded like it was wired out of phase. Which it was. And no-one had noticed. Which begs the question, were they actually listening to the music, or simply looking at the expensive kit and extrapolating the sound quality accordingly so that it correlated to the high price-tag? (Now there's a $5 sentence!)

 

I was invited to an evening to hear the one-off prototype (or so they said then) of the Kef Blade. Lots of figures were bandied around as to what they had cost (adding up all the R&D and man hours). 250K, 350K, 500K! We all arrived, clutching a carefully selected handful of CDs with our test tracks on. I left twenty minutes later. The room was packed, I had no hope of getting a track on, let alone a decent seat at the top of the triangle. Besides, the speakers hurt my ears; too mid-rangey. I spoke to a friend who is an audio and electronics engineer; he thought they were rubbish too. Not throw in the bin rubbish, but just not worth more than, say, a couple of grand. Maybe he and I have ears of tin, but it has not escaped my notice, and probably not yours either that there is an awful lot of 'Emperor's New Clothes' around the HiFi industry.

Which brings me to the end of this essay. Do I sell my set-up (and incur a whopping loss in the process?) or just move the speakers three inches to the left, install laminate glass in all the windows and hear the improvement I've been looking for? Could I get the sound I'm after for £1500, or will it take £150,000? I'd invite you all round to listen, but the missus would probably object. Thank you.

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RE: Am I going wrong somewhere? Your advice and views, please.

if you want to get closer to what was recorded, try some active speakers, they can be amazing.

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RE: Am I going wrong somewhere? Your advice and views, please.

Hi Atticus and welcome,

I can't offer any informed or otherwise opinions, as yet, but just wanted to say what an excellent post. Your concerns, in some ways, echo many of my own

Thanks for a great read.

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RE: Am I going wrong somewhere? Your advice and views, please.

Hi, thanks for sharing!

Wow. 

Hmm....the more money spent, the greater the expectation. And the greater the tendency of the listener to listen to the system.

I've got a 2nd system that cost maybe a couple of hundred quid. I only hear the music on that system beacause I know the system itself is rubbish. Have I "made it", I wonder? 

I don't mean that in a bad way, it's just food for thought. I think it's all in the ear/mind of the individual once you've gone beyond a certain level. Even in the hi-end, I don't believe there's perfection, you just have to choose something you like, something that sounds musical to your ears considering the music you enjoy.

For a practical suggestion, my experience is limited, but I'll toss this into the mix:

The speaks look good. How about trying some quality Class A amplification with them? What kind of music do you like?

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RE: Am I going wrong somewhere? Your advice and views, please.

That's one of the best first posts I've read. Despite the fact I rarely post here, I will say welcome.

And, though some consider it to be total (*), I suggest you spend a small percentage of what you have so far spent on your system on isolation and improving your mains.

Try an Audiophile Base platform under your source equipment. Greater definition, bass extension, you can't argue with it. Or something like Isotek Orion (used) or Aquarius for conditioning. Try some "entry level" mains leads and connectors. Seriously, you know you have hit diminishing returns on your kit, so you really have to try something in another area - an Isotek Aquarius may weigh in at the price of a decent component, but at this level, that is the point.

You don't say if you have any mains conditioning or isolation, but believe me, you will hear a difference, possibly a big one of the kind you experienced those years ago. Others will disagree. Up to you.

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RE: Am I going wrong somewhere? Your advice and views, please.

Hi. I think you hit the right spot with your post! very good read and thanks for sharing your experiences. recently, I had a chance to listen to music through some X00.000 Euros kit and it didn't excite to say the least. IMO it's not the wide price tags what buys great gear but the right technology used within kit. while I admit it doesn't cost peanuts it will not push you to take up another mortgage too :).

I think you reached a point (and I too BTW) at which there's only one way forward - Quad electrostats for speakers (Quad ESL 2905 anyone?). read some of the many favourable user reviews. also Manger is worth looking into. both companies use the same principle for building their transducers - bending waves principle, as opposed to typical piston movement principle. result? lightning fast transient response compared to conventional dome or ribbon drivers means more "alive " sound. and there's no crossover network in the speakers (well, being more precise Manger uses a crossover but it's set so low that it doesn't influence musical signal to much).

as for amplification I'd suggest good class A tubes or "tubey" sounding transistors. try Lavardin or Pathos Inpol for a change. i think you gonna like it.

source? nothing matches good vinyl for SQ. but digital surpases for usability. Clearuaudio or maybe Michell?

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RE: Am I going wrong somewhere? Your advice and views, please.

Thank you, Charlie. And thank you to you all for your advice and kind remarks.

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RE: Am I going wrong somewhere? Your advice and views, please.

I have heard the Blades on a number on a number of occasions. overrated, painful and expensive . Really it's just spending money for the sake of it.

My opinion in your situation. Listen to a good quality radio for a month and enjoy the music.

Then make a move.

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RE: Am I going wrong somewhere? Your advice and views, please.

Hi Atticus, you've got some good comments above.

Given you are not quite getting what you want from your hifi, my advice would be similar to that of Paradiziak and Oldric. In other words, try other types of amplifier, to see if you can find the sound your looking for.

There is:
- Solid State Class A (Sugden, Musical Fidelity AMS, Pathos)
- Valves (Icon Audio, Unison Research, Pure Sound)
- Hybrid which is Valve pre + SS power (Pathos, UR Unico)
- Class D (Bel Canto)
- SS amps that are worth checking out, some of which were suggested (Lavardin, Audio Analogue, Electrocompaniet)

All the above suggestions sound quite different to your Cyrus, and are well worth going on a "hifi pilgrimage," to hear how each sound.

Great first post

Cno

"We should no more let numbers define audio quality than we should let chemical analysis be the arbiter of fine wines."  Nelson Pass

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RE: Am I going wrong somewhere? Your advice and views, please.

You can always keep spending on hi-fi but you can easily get onto a track where you will never be satisfied.  You spend more and more and expect more and more, but there is only so far you can go and, ultimately, every piece of equipment is going to be limited by the quality of the recordings you listen to (which is fixed given that the day when the hi-fi dictates which music you listen to is the day you really should give up).

No hi-fi is ever going to fully reproduce the glory of a real live instrument.  I work with pianos of all shapes and sizes every day and I've heard some very expensive hi-fi systems in my time, but not one of them has ever really got close to replicating the experience of being in the same room as the instrument being played.  In the end it all comes down to how much time you want to spend chasing something elusive, particularly when much of that time could be spent enjoying and exploring new music.

Welcome to the forums.

Rega RP3/Elys 2 - Graham Slee Gram Amp 1 - Rotel RCD965BX - Exposure 1010 amp - Dynaudio DM2/6 - Chord Co. Chameleon VEE3/Rumour 2 - Musical Fidelity V90-HPA - Sennheiser HD595

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RE: Am I going wrong somewhere? Your advice and views, please.

Atticus,

 

Don't bother with Linn, Naim, Chord. They will get your system to a certain level, but you can punch through the Linn / Naim / Chord barrier by buying other kit.

 

If you want a world class as good as it gets system for the minimum amount of money then:

 

Don't buy new

 

Don't buy anything from the most well known brands

 

Forget about having a pretty system with pretty little speakers

 

 

If Wife Acceptance Factor (WAF) is important to you, especially when it comes to speakers, then you might as well give up in your search for better sound and enjoy living with what you've already got.

 

If sound quality is more important to you than WAF then you'll need to sell most or even all of the kit you've already got.

 

You can put together a really good system for under £1k. If you want to max-out every component, you can do that for a total system budget of £5k to £10k.

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RE: Am I going wrong somewhere? Your advice and views, please.

Interesting....

atticus wrote:
So I went ahead and bought one. I was hooked; it was like having a whole new music collection again. And a few weeks later I went back for the Cyrus PreVs2 and Cyrus 8 Power amps. The improvement was definite, noticeable and spectacular. I started getting decent interconnects (Atlas Equator, and the now-discontinued Myryad brand). Better. Jump to a pair of Monitor Audio GS10's and some Genesis Silver Spiral speaker cable, at first single wired, then bi-wiring. Cor! I then added a Cyrus X Power and bi-wired the lot. Fantastic! I topped everything off by adding the Cyrus PSX-R dedicated power supplies (I was initially very cynical about what increment of improvement would be added by these, but was soon convinced).

 

The sound kept getting better but was never quite there, if you get my meaning. I traded the CD6S up for a jolly good deal on the Cyrus CD8SE and finally succumbed to the dreaded eBay for a killer deal on a showroom pair of Tannoy DC8 stand-mount loudspeakers; I was sorry to see the GS10's go but oh boy, what a sound! A pair of Cyrus Mono X's to replace the 8 Power brought the whole lot to its current glory.

 

I can understand the "not quite there" thing. As I've always said, it's one thing having a good pair of speakers, it's entirely another to drive them properly. This will all be down to whether you're prepared to start all over again, and as you say, incur huge losses. Personally, I'd stick with what you've so far invested in, as there are key products that can transform your current system. Cyrus have come a long way in the past few years, and the main product that's holding you back is the PreVS2, as good as it is. The pre-amp is the window of the system - the system can be the finest available, but used with a pre that's not up to scratch, you may as well have bought something half the price. The DACxp+ would make a significant difference to the detail and openness of your system - this really is a night and day comparison, as would the following change - the Mono X's. The Mono X's have been around a long time. They were a good product, but not outstanding. Cyrus' new X200 and X300 monoblocks are. They're so good, they make Mono X's sound like a £200 integrated amplifier. Every single Mono X customer who has auditioned (at home I might add) the new X Monos HAS purchased them. Before these new monos came along, my favourite power amplification was Bryston - the 4Bsst2 and 7Bsst2 monoblocks in particular. A pair of X300's easily give the 4Bsst2 (similar price point) a run for it's money, and that's quite an achievement. The icing on the cake would be the CDXTse2 CD transport, but that will make the least difference. The only thing I can recommend here is to get yourself into a decent dealer and try this system out - this will confirm or deny whether it's what you're looking for.

 

Quote:
So I now find I've spent the best part of 10K by adding and adding and adding and I'm now a little stuck. I think I've hit a plateau and am experiencing the full force of the law of diminishing returns. My system sounds really good, but the music is still not quite there enough; I want it to sound clearer, more defined and more present. My friend and colleague says you know you've made it when you can no longer hear the system, only the music itself.
Ironically, this is the difference the Blades make....

 

Quote:
I was invited to an evening to hear the one-off prototype (or so they said then) of the Kef Blade. Lots of figures were bandied around as to what they had cost (adding up all the R&D and man hours). 250K, 350K, 500K! We all arrived, clutching a carefully selected handful of CDs with our test tracks on. I left twenty minutes later. The room was packed, I had no hope of getting a track on, let alone a decent seat at the top of the triangle. Besides, the speakers hurt my ears; too mid-rangey. I spoke to a friend who is an audio and electronics engineer; he thought they were rubbish too. Not throw in the bin rubbish, but just not worth more than, say, a couple of grand.
The actual figure would've been around the same as the Muon - about £150k. And yes, that's including man hours for the R&D. Now, I would say this for any product, even if I didn't like it, but nothing sounds "rubbish". That's a throwaway statement. If they really sounded that bad, nobody would buy them. I usually find people using that sort of description either have an issue with the particular manufacturer, or they're jealous of the design or success of that company. I've seen it many times. If they didn't think the idea, they slag it off. I get really suspicious of people making statements like that. Reps do it too. They get their sly little digs in at the competition and their products, because they know it's affecting their business.

One of our customers changed from 205/2's to the Blades, and yes, the guy can afford it, but he doesn't buy something just because he can - if he could, he'd have just ordered them without audition. He chose them via a demo, just as he did his 205's, and his Cyrus system, and after hearing alternatives. So if the Blades were only worth about £2k, that'd mean they wouldn't sound as good as the 201's....

 

Quote:
Which brings me to the end of this essay. Do I sell my set-up (and incur a whopping loss in the process?) or just move the speakers three inches to the left, install laminate glass in all the windows and hear the improvement I've been looking for? Could I get the sound I'm after for £1500, or will it take £150,000? I'd invite you all round to listen, but the missus would probably object. Thank you.
I would say it depends on how you feel about your speakers. If they really are what you're after, then the steps I've outlined above will show you just how they can really sound. I think you're closer than you think you are.

DavidF @FrankHarveyHiFi, Coventry.

"Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to light"

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RE: Am I going wrong somewhere? Your advice and views, please.

atticus,

In the first section of your initial thread, you explain your beginnings in the studio. Assuming that you were looking to record a sound that was as close to being there as possible back then, would it not make sense to try some professional audio equipment?

Presumably, what ever was mastered, had that 'being there' feel at the time. Therefore, why not try exactly the same sort of equipment used in the studio?

Of course, this thread is similar to another recent thread, where someone else was looking for that sensation of being at a live venue. Ultimately, an awful lot depends on how a track has been recorded/mastered in the first place.

No hifi equipment is ever going to create a soundstage that was never recorded in the first place, or give you a 'live' sound if the recording was done in a studio. Only DSP will do that. The best that you can hope for in any hifi set up, is to faithfully reproduce what was recorded and what is held on the media in question, be it vinyl, CD, or digital file.

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RE: Am I going wrong somewhere? Your advice and views, please.

FrankHarveyHiFi wrote:


I can understand the "not quite there" thing. As I've always said, it's one thing having a good pair of speakers, it's entirely another to drive them properly. This will all be down to whether you're prepared to start all over again, and as you say, incur huge losses. Personally, I'd stick with what you've so far invested in, as there are key products that can transform your current system. Cyrus have come a long way in the past few years, and the main product that's holding you back is the PreVS2, as good as it is. The pre-amp is the window of the system - the system can be the finest available, but used with a pre that's not up to scratch, you may as well have bought something half the price. The DACxp+ would make a significant difference to the detail and openness of your system - this really is a night and day comparison, as would the following change - the Mono X's. The Mono X's have been around a long time. They were a good product, but not outstanding. Cyrus' new X200 and X300 monoblocks are. They're so good, they make Mono X's sound like a £200 integrated amplifier. Every single Mono X customer who has auditioned (at home I might add) the new X Monos HAS purchased them. Before these new monos came along, my favourite power amplification was Bryston - the 4Bsst2 and 7Bsst2 monoblocks in particular. A pair of X300's easily give the 4Bsst2 (similar price point) a run for it's money, and that's quite an achievement. The icing on the cake would be the CDXTse2 CD transport, but that will make the least difference. The only thing I can recommend here is to get yourself into a decent dealer and try this system out - this will confirm or deny whether it's what you're looking for.

.

IMO David's advice is always worth taking on board, and going up the Cyrus ladder may be the answer....but it also may not, depending on what is "missing".

Quite often the lacking element, is what Plastic Penguin alluded to as "Soul," in another thread. This is where the emotion in the music hits you in the chest and can make you want to laugh or cry.

Like you, I come from a musical background, and I suspect that you may well have an innate sense of musicality that you've inherited by "osmosis", as a result of your upbringing and gene pool.

Use this by trusting your instincts, and make sure you also listen to some of the amps that I've listed above, as I suspect that is where your answer may lie. IMO Clinical, analytical and forward sounding amps can sound dramatic, but often fail to stir the soul....which is what music is supposed to do after all.

The above comments are my personal view, and are not meant as a slight on anyone else's choice of equipment.

Cno

"We should no more let numbers define audio quality than we should let chemical analysis be the arbiter of fine wines."  Nelson Pass

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RE: Am I going wrong somewhere? Your advice and views, please.

CnoEvil wrote:

IMO David's advice is always worth taking on board, and going up the Cyrus ladder may be the answer....but it also may not, depending on what is "missing". Quite often the lacking element, is what Plastic Penguin alluded to as "Soul," in another thread.

+1

 

I find it surprising, but I've noticed that not all music lovers are into hifi and not all hifi lovers are (really--IMHO!) into music. Some professional muscians don't bother with hifi, and some hifi buffs bring along to demos the most un-musical muzak that probably wouldn't have "soul" on ANY system. 

So, naming no names, some products may be more "hifi" and less "musical" than others.

People generally recommend what they themselves prefer, yet everyone's ears and musical tastes are different. 

Maybe a starting point is to get together a bunch of tracks that really touch you musically/emotionally, and then go around and listen with an open mind to these tracks on a bunch of different systems. Then you might have a better reference point re: your own tastes and thus what, if anything, might need to be changed in your system and how much, if anything, that might cost.

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RE: Am I going wrong somewhere? Your advice and views, please.

paradiziac wrote:

+1

 

I find it surprising, but I've noticed that not all music lovers are into hifi and not all hifi lovers are (really--IMHO!) into music. Some professional muscians don't bother with hifi, and some hifi buffs bring along to demos the most un-musical muzak that probably wouldn't have "soul" on ANY system. 

So, naming no names, some products may be more "hifi" and less "musical" than others.

People generally recommend what they themselves prefer, yet everyone's ears and musical tastes are different. 

Maybe a starting point is to get together a bunch of tracks that really touch you musically/emotionally, and then go around and listen with an open mind to these tracks on a bunch of different systems. Then you might have a better reference point re: your own tastes and thus what, if anything, might need to be changed in your system and how much, if anything, that might cost.

There is no doubt that we have a similar approach.

It doesn't always follow that you have to spend a fortune. I prefer the sound of a well chosen £1800 amp, than a "maxed out" Linn Klimax pre/power one costing considerably more.

"We should no more let numbers define audio quality than we should let chemical analysis be the arbiter of fine wines."  Nelson Pass

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