A lot of audio sounded smoother 15-20 years ago. These days I feel like all the manufactures are going for more resolution and brighter sounds.
I would agree with this.....especially if you were brought up on a diet of vinyl as well.
My preference resides in the now "out-of-date" and environmentally unfriendly tech, such as Valves and Class A...........I can see them being outlawed in the not too distant future.
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Agreeing with Cno's sentiments I think that speakers from professional stables have some blame here. Proac and PMC come to mind, though I have heard great music from both brands.
Mine were influenced allegedly by their designer's love of the gutless LS35/a so could never be found overly bright. I'd rather hear most things at their best rather than ruthlessly analysed.
As for the OP, I would give it plenty of time on running in and adjusting to a different presentation. It's not just tonal balance either.
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I usually don't listen to the Arcam past level 40 on its electronic indicator. It is a medium loud range. Never listen too loudly and my Proacs are 87db 8ohm speakers, not too hard to drive. So I am fairly certain that I never clip the Arcam.
The Creek 4330 was old for sure. The voume pot gave out. I think the Creek sounded smoother than the Arcam for two reasons; 1. A lot of audio sounded smoother 15-20 years ago. These days I feel like all the manufactures are going for more resolution and brighter sounds. 2. The Creek uses a passive preamp section along with mosfet output devices. The Arcam uses an active preamp and Sanken bipolar output devices. From personal experience whenever I have listened to a mosfet amp it has had a slightly warm and more rounded sound to it. I have also heard a few other passive preamp integrated amps before such as the Acurus DIA-100 and also a McCormack passive preamp with power amp. The passive preamps seem to give good resoulution but can also sound a little on soft side.
My favorite integrated amps have been the Audio Innovations Alto and Creek 4330. The brightest sounding integrated I have ever tried at home was an Audiolab 8000s. Wow was that bright! Almost tore my ears clean off.
This Arcam A18 is pretty darn good. It is musical and has clarity. I guess I'll just have to put up with some occasional brightness with singers. I guess not too bad for the price point.
We seem to have similar taste (dislikes). I too had an 8000S years ago and didn't like it. It was gone within 3 months. Oddly enough, I also had an Audio Innovation though it was one of their integrated valve amplifiers, this one I liked very much.
I am unfortunately not familiar with Arcams electronic volume read-outs but it is possible that if you use 'medium loud', the amplifier clips with peaks. - If sibilance is an issue at low volume too, this however is unlikely to be the cause. It could be though that either your cd player or amplifier has left the factory slightly mis-aligned/under-biased. I have not noticed sibilance to be a particular problem with them, I would have remembered that. It may just be worth it to compare them to another set.
Rega used to have a similar, slightly laid back nature with perhaps less forwardness higher up, all else failing but as you already have noticed, you seem to get more used to the Arcam's and may well find that switching to another brand is a one step back.
I dont agree that the use of an active pre-amplifier stage has to mean bright or harsh. There are plenty examples out there otherwise but fets have traditionally have had the reputation of being more valve like but have their own problems with correct implementation.
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I know for sure hifi these days tend to go more for resolution & in the process tend to sound more bright ... Am one of those who is very sensititive to the S & T sounds... Most amps these days seem to do just that..
Yes do agree with Cno valves or class A amps may be the way... This seems to be the norm every time someone buys a new system.. Reports on this forum of thin & bright & lack of bass. I think over the years people have gotten use to this type of sound now its becoming the norm..
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Just wanted to give everyone an update. Ran the Arcam duo in a lot during the past week and just can't shake thier brightness. Sounds good with only music playing, but with voices on about half the CD's I play there was just too much artifical brightness, sharpness, edge, sibilance, mechanical, or however you want to describe it sort of sound to it.
I played the New Order "Get Ready" CD and had to turn it off. Everytime Bernard Sumner started singing on "Crystal" the T and S sounds were unberable. It is ridiiculous. Are people deaf? Are all the audio designers getting old and going deaf? Do I have super human hearing? How do most people put up with this rubbish these days? They used to make audio components that were at least listenable a decade or two ago or more. Now its all about resolution, clarity and brightness. I don't care about hearing every detail I'd just want something pleasent to listen to.
I talked to my dealer and he is more than kind enough to take back the Arcam A18 and CD17. On another note I was able to get my Creek fixed for about 75 pounds. Looking forward to putting in back into my system. Never had a problem with sibliance with the Creek and the Cambridge Audio CD playing music.
So I start at square one. My Creek 4330 can't last forever. Any suggestions you might have on an amp I'd be happy to hear. Anyone listen to the Croft phono integrated? Look interesting. Like my Creek it's a mosfet and passive preamp design. Has the added bonus of having dual volume controls, point to point wiring, and uses a tube in the amp stage and 2 tubes for the phono stage. On paper at least it seems like it should sound smooth and slightly warm.
You are a definite candidate for Class A / Valves / Hybrids.
Your search in the future should be looking at the likes of Sugden, Pathos, Icon Audion and Unison Research.
I just bought an Arcam A18 integrated amp and Arcam CD17 player. It's sounding a bit bright , thin and ragged right now. Sounded smoother and fuller at the store. How long does break-in time last? I only have about 8 hours on it so far.
Or perhaps I should change my speakers and wires? Maybe they are not a good match? I have Proac Signature 2000 speakers, Cardas 5-C quadlink interconnects and Audioquest Type 4 speaker cables.
Thanks in advance.
Keep it simple. Your AQ Type IV will be fine, no need to go mad on this and they're good ones, leave the interconnects as is. I have a set which I used for the best part of ten years. Try also repositioning your speakers slightly, toe them a little further out, or in, or shift them around a bit, not much, six inches to the left or right can make a huge difference. More, in fact, than any cable will ever do for you.
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I tried the a18 in my system not too long ago. It was brighter in the treble but, crucially for these ears, smoother in the midrange-upper mids in comparision to my Marantz PM8004. I quite liked the sound of the a18 overall, except I felt that it really lacked dynamics. Having recently picked up a primluna prologue one -- a real smoothie this one -- I suggest you follow the advice of others and try class A or valves, especially with those proacs, which everyone seems to pair with valves likely to tame some of their less than well mannered behavior. That or try different speakers.
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