Have your say & ask the experts!

System suitable for low-volume listening?

19 replies [Last post]
Moriaty's picture
Offline
Joined: 21 Sep 2012
Posts: 2

 

Folks,

I will be visiting my local dealers to audition kit, but to make sure I won't be wasting my time or theirs, the team's advice would be appreciated...

 

1 I'll be moving house shortly and getting my own 'hobby room', roughly 4.5 metres by 3.5 metres.

2 I like listening to Brian Eno, keyboard music (piano and harpsichord) and Pink Floyd on CD.

3 My hearing's pretty good for my age (60) but I know it's not what it used to be!

4 I currently have a Marantz CD67SE, Marantz PM44 MkII amp and Tannoy Mercury F1 speakers. (Beyer DT 531 headphones for the occasional rock'n'roll.)

 5 For the sake of harmony with neighbours and family, I will be listening at pretty low sound levels. (Amp volume at no more than 9 o'clock, -45.)

6 My current set-up doesn't really work at these low levels — it lacks clarity and 'presence', particularly in the bass.

7 I've got a budget of £1,250 to £1,500.

So:

 

a) is this a realistic budget to get a system that will deliver a materially better sound?

b) within this budget, which are more likely to give me clarity and bass 'presence' at lowish volume: floor-standers or stand-mounted speakers?

c) any known, tried-and-tested combinations you would recommend for my shortlist?

 

Thanks for your time.

Moriaty

 

atticus's picture
Offline
Joined: 18 Nov 2011
Posts: 137
RE: System suitable for low-volume listening?

Hello Moriaty and welcome.

We have similar music tastes, as well as having a similar problem with 'no oomf or body' at low level playback. I even had your CD player in a previous setup.

I think you need active speakers, which give a much more consistent response all the way from low to high volume levels. My experience of passive systems is that there is a sweet spot where they sound great, but this is generally not conducive to having anyone else in the room!

I have ADM40 floorstanders from AVi HiFi and Eno has never sounded better than he does on these. They are over your budget, but the AVi also do a set of standmounts (which I think will be better in the space you have, anyway) called the ADM 9RS; these come in at £1250. Google them and call up the owner, Ashley, who is very pleasant to deal with - if a bit outspoken for some people -! Judging from what the owners of the 9RS's say, their performance is superb, (and perhaps comes a bit closer to that of my ADM40's than I'd like, if I were honest!)

The ADM9's (which have had various incarnations as they have been subtly improved) have amp, DAC built in, as well as having drivers that usually appear in much more expensive speakers. They are very good indeed. They also attract a lot of controversy as you may well see elsewhere on this forum (and perhaps even in this thread, if enough people pick up on it!)

I would strongly recommend listening to them, as they are a game-changer (or ender!) for many people. A lot of folk buy them 'blind', which may seem odd, or even foolish; but given the almost revelatory experiences that most new owners have, and then write up about, this seems to assuage any nagging doubts.

I stream music from an iPad and via an Apple TV to mine, but there are plenty of inputs if you just want to start by plugging your CD player in the back. AVi have their own forum (AVI Audio Forum, funnily enough) where everyone is understandably a bit pro-AVi. Have a read and decide for yourself.

Trust nothing but your own ears!

Joined: 25 Jul 2011
Posts: 1858
RE: System suitable for low-volume listening?

You have a terrific amp and CD player there, so I'd keep those. As to speakers, I'd suggest the Dynaudios, they go well at low volumes with excellent bass.

Give them a listen, you'll be impressed.

manicm's picture
Offline
Joined: 1 May 2008
Posts: 2668
RE: System suitable for low-volume listening?

For low-volume prowess there's simpy 'no substitute for cubic capacity'. Dynaudios are generally power-hungry and they won't really improve the OP's night-time audio with his 50w Marantz amp (at 8 ohms). He thus needs a more powerful amp to start off with.

Since he has a generous budget, I would agree with the 2nd post about actives, or 1250-1500 quid could also buy a beefier amp like the 60w Rotel RA-12 amp at 600, and he'll have 600+ left for a great speaker to go with it. Or something like the yet more powerful Roksan Kandy K2.

His budget opens up a world of opportunity, but the first thing he'll need is upgraded amplification before anything else (assuming he doesn't go the active route).

__________________

Arcam Solo Mini/Monitor Audio RX1/Cambridge Audio 751BD/Samsung 37” LCD

Joined: 25 Jul 2011
Posts: 1858
RE: System suitable for low-volume listening?

Don't agree. He has fine amplification and CD player. Decent speakers, like the Dynaudios, will give him the bass and clarity at lower listening level he requires. Actives won't necessarily help at all - in fact, the ADMs are reputed to be bass light, which is the last thing he wants. Mostly, though, why throw away fine gear for nothing? Anyway, back to the sink now!

plastic penguin's picture
Offline
Joined: 28 Apr 2008
Posts: 15534
RE: System suitable for low-volume listening?

Moriaty wrote:

 

Folks,

I will be visiting my local dealers to audition kit, but to make sure I won't be wasting my time or theirs, the team's advice would be appreciated...

 

1 I'll be moving house shortly and getting my own 'hobby room', roughly 4.5 metres by 3.5 metres.

2 I like listening to Brian Eno, keyboard music (piano and harpsichord) and Pink Floyd on CD.

3 My hearing's pretty good for my age (60) but I know it's not what it used to be!

4 I currently have a Marantz CD67SE, Marantz PM44 MkII amp and Tannoy Mercury F1 speakers. (Beyer DT 531 headphones for the occasional rock'n'roll.)

 5 For the sake of harmony with neighbours and family, I will be listening at pretty low sound levels. (Amp volume at no more than 9 o'clock, -45.)

6 My current set-up doesn't really work at these low levels — it lacks clarity and 'presence', particularly in the bass.

7 I've got a budget of £1,250 to £1,500.

So:

 

a) is this a realistic budget to get a system that will deliver a materially better sound?

b) within this budget, which are more likely to give me clarity and bass 'presence' at lowish volume: floor-standers or stand-mounted speakers?

c) any known, tried-and-tested combinations you would recommend for my shortlist?

 

Thanks for your time.

Moriaty

 

I need to play at low levels at night, due to neighbours and our 10 yeard old. Your amp and CDP should be well up to the job. I'd look at speakers first; start by looking at speakers that are easy to drive, such as Monitor Audio RX range and Focal 'V' range, like 714V or MA RX1s. They should give you a decent uplift and sound excellent at low/medium levels.

__________________

Amp: Leema Pulse; Source: Naim CD5i-2, Denon 260MKII, Pro-ject XP I; Speakers: PMC TB2i

 

Formerly known as plastic penguin

manicm's picture
Offline
Joined: 1 May 2008
Posts: 2668
RE: System suitable for low-volume listening?

I still disagree, for enhanced low-volume listening there is simply no substitute for a more powerful (and quality) amplifier which will simply drive any speaker better.

To the OP - please get advice from a reputable hifi specialist as well.

__________________

Arcam Solo Mini/Monitor Audio RX1/Cambridge Audio 751BD/Samsung 37” LCD

the record spot's picture
Offline
Joined: 13 Oct 2007
Posts: 9010
RE: System suitable for low-volume listening?

I can see both perspectives; you will get great results from a Sansui AU-217 partnered with a pair of Mission 752s.  A 30w amp from the mid-70s driving a pair of floorstanders from the 90s.  Works nicely, and the Marantz amp was pretty well rated in its day too.  That said, if it's anything like the later PM6010-KI then it's probably best replacing it.  Marantz do great source players and some good amps, but not across the board by all means.  Personal preference I guess.

Actives, just another way of doing something, so you could down that route.  Genelec make some lovely speakers, and the 8240a would be worth hearing.  Likewise the 8230a.  

For me though, I'd seek out the likes of the Leema Pulse Mk II, which wasn't so different from Sansui's AU-717 amp.  80wpc, around £700 if you can find one.  Speakers?  Whatever your preference is, but I love what Tannoy do these days.  The Precision 6.1 would be worth hearing maybe (£900 at the Home Cinema Centre in Edinburgh, or a dealer nearer you!).  Depends how well you think they'd go together. Secondhand is another route worth looking at too, your money will go further.  Don't write off an AV amp, some are excellent and this offers a cost-effective route into biamping as well as state of the art functionality.  

My Tannoys work very well at low volumes throwing out a wide soundstage and a very expressive and lucid overall sound quality.  I listen at low volumes at night time and often during the day if neighbours are in at the weekend.  Might go for a listen to the Precisions meself!

__________________

 

Onkyo TX-NR818 / Tannoy DC4 speakers / Marantz UD-7007

AVI Lab Series & Marantz CD63 MkII KI CD players / various cables 

Electro's picture
Offline
Joined: 30 Mar 2011
Posts: 989
RE: System suitable for low-volume listening?

My recommendation would be to keep your Marantz equipment and add a pair of stand mount PMC TB2i's  or if you want floorstanders then a used pair of PMC FB1i's .

Both these models are quite efficient at 90db  and are very easy to drive, they have excellent bass with a completely balanced and detailed sound even at very low volumes .

PMC speakers are all transmission line type speakers and one of their main strengths is that their frequency response remains the same at all volume levels and the bass is always proportionate to to the mid and top at all listening levels .

They sound just as detailed and balanced at low listening levels as they do at higher levels and they are just fantastic speakers anyway . Smile

 

Here is a short video explaining further .

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=683FoCDilOE

And as a bonus they are also designed and built in the UK Smile

 

 

__________________

Electrocompaniet EMC1UP Cd player , EC 4.8 preamp , AW180 monoblock power amps , PMC PB1i speakers .

Linn LP12 Lingo , Ittok lv3 , Lyra Lydian , EAR834P .

"Everything should be as simple as possible, but no simpler."     Albert Einstein .

Al ears's picture
Offline
Joined: 23 Nov 2008
Posts: 2434
RE: System suitable for low-volume listening?

Like the previous poster who mentioned PMC speakers I would advise that this is the best route to go down.

Keep your amp / cd player, if you are happy with them, and, as it looks like you have the space, go for the most efficient floorstanders that you can find / audition.

My suggestions would be the full range speaker from Icon Audio (or their MFV range), Epos Epic 5, or Tannoy D6T SE.

 

__________________

Origin Live Aurora Gold+Illustrious Mk2 arm+Zyx R100-02/Stello CDT200+Stello DA220 dac/Tom Evans Groove Anniversary phono amp/Tom Evans Vibe preamp/Linear A power amp/Acoustic Zen Adagios/Chord cables/Oppo 105EU.

matthewpiano's picture
Online
Joined: 23 Nov 2007
Posts: 7836
RE: System suitable for low-volume listening?

Sound quality at low volume levels is a perennial issue and one with which I've grappled for a long time.  Some amps are hopeless due to poor balance at low volumes whilst others just don't seem to open up until you turn them up.  Then some speakers need a lot of current through them before they sound any good at all.

You would think that combining sensitive speakers with a powerful amp would be the answer, but my experiences have told me it isn't as simple as that.  It really isn't just down to power, but also about how an amplifier delivers its current and how it works with the particular speakers you have chosen.  Simply pairing some sensitive speakers with your current Marantz amp won't guarantee to solve the problem.  Indeed, I generally find that Marantz amps can sound a bit soft a low levels, particularly in the bass.

What you really need to do is book a demo. Take your current system along and try various different combinations to find the best way of resolving your issues.  As far as I'm concerned it is the only way to proceed.

__________________

Sources: Rega RP3/Elys 2 - Roksan Kandy K2 CDS Phono Stage Cambridge Audio 540P

Amplification: Exposure 1010

Speakers: Dynaudio DM2/6  Stands: Atacama Nexus 6 + Blok 300

Cables: Chord Co. and Merlin

Head-Fi System: PC/Spotify Premium - NAD C521BEE - Musical Fidelity V90-HPA - Sennhesier HD595

Listening to MUSIC!

hoopsontoast's picture
Offline
Joined: 1 Oct 2011
Posts: 854
RE: System suitable for low-volume listening?

Higher efficiency speakers and SET amps, IME.

The Decware Zen is the best amp I have heard overall, can be had new for around £700 direct from Decware with Import duty and VAT. Comes with a lifetime warranty as well to the original owner.

Another nice SET is the MingDa MC368-B902, rubbish name but sounds great.

Not sure on speakers, most I have expereince with have been S/H or DIY.  Possibly the PMC's, quite enjoyed the DB1S+ with an Audionote Oto (PushPull EL84) and Audion Sterling Plus (SE KT8cool  which are both 10-15wpc. The Puresound A10 is also a great shout.

Living Voice Auditorium can be had S/H well in budget, and are supposed to sound great at lower volumes. Need a little space around them though.

The Icon Audio amps and speakers are well worth a look, heard good things about the MP3 SET amp, and their fill-range speakers look interesting.

__________________

Main System: Michell Gyrodec SE / RB300 / 2M Blue  | Sony DVP-S9000ES | Rega Brio-R | ATC SCM10

Other Bits: Keesonic Kolt | Decware Zen

Hoops Stuff

dumbledore's picture
Offline
Joined: 29 Dec 2012
Posts: 34
RE: System suitable for low-volume listening?

As your priority is listening to low volumes you should consider to audicion class A amplifiers transistor or valves. These amps don't suffer from crossover distorsion and can be used at low levels. The valve ampllifier also has got low damping ration which make them very sensitive to speaker matching. With the right speaker they may provide some artificial loudness effect which usually helps in enhancing the sound at low levels. Also you could consider using low efficient high impedance speakers which are better in reducing the crossover distortion in amplifiers as you will have to turn the volume up to achieve the same sound levels which helps reducing the distorsion in the amp.

lindsayt's picture
Offline
Joined: 8 Apr 2011
Posts: 974
RE: System suitable for low-volume listening?

Moriaty, is your choice of new house set in stone? Could you find another house with a room better isolated from the neighbours?

 

If it is set in stone try something like a pair of Klipsch Cornwalls with a SET valve amp or your Marantz amp. High efficiency speakers have a way of scaling from very loud levels to very low levels whilst maintaining the detail and clarity. It's down to the lack of mass and inertia when compared to traditional low efficiency coned and domed designs. If you had a larger room I'd also suggest Electrostatics (possibly with a couple of sub woofers) or Magnepans with your Marantz amp. Again it's the lack of inertia that helps the low volume clarity.

 

Your budget is entirely realistic if you buy 2nd hand.

chebby's picture
Online
Joined: 2 Jun 2008
Posts: 15340
RE: System suitable for low-volume listening?

lindsayt wrote:
Moriaty, is your choice of new house set in stone? Could you find another house with a room better isolated from the neighbours?

Not everyone plays their system at low/moderate volume because of neighbours/family. Often it's by choice.

We live in a very solidly made Edwardian house where sound simply doesn't travel that much (even between rooms) unless doors and windows are open. I could get away with much higher levels without upsetting anyone but I choose not to. My ears are still in pretty good nick and I want them to stay that way. I also like to be able to have conversations without either person having to raise their voice.

Even if the family and neighbours are out, I don't feel the necessity to 'crank it up'. My Rega R3s are very capable at low, medium and higher volumes equally. (I sometimes turn it up a lot higher when a friend - who also likes hi-fi  - visits and asks for some volume on particular music. He uses ATC and Primare and likes it LOUD unlike me.)

Never had a complaint from our neighbours about hi-fi, or any other noises, even after the occasional louder sessions I mentioned.

Personally, I would try out the Rega Brio-R amp with some Rega RS3s. (The current versions of my older R3s.)

With a good 'package deal' from a Rega dealer, you could probably squeeze in a Rega Apollo-R or Rega DAC to that £1500 budget (with a bit of ex-demo and/or some good will from a dealer who knows a happy 1st time system buyer is a  good thing for the future!)

However, I have had one - or more - Rega items in all of my systems going back some 30 years, so I am a little biased Smile

__________________

Marantz M-CR603 • Rega R3 loudspeakers • AirPlay • Apple iPad Mini • Apple iPhone 5 • Apple iMac • Apple AirPort Extreme 802.11N • Humax HDR-Fox T2 • Panasonic TX-L32D25B • Sony BDP-S390

Moriaty's picture
Offline
Joined: 21 Sep 2012
Posts: 2
RE: System suitable for low-volume listening?

 

My thanks to everyone for such a wide range of ideas and suggestions.

One or two brands are new to me, so strong coffee and a couple of late evenings lie ahead whilst I do some research on the interweb. Always fun to learn new stuff!

In the meantime, my apologies for being dim but can I clarify something?

I think I understand the idea of a more powerful amp: such a beastie will be better able to deliver transients without straining.

Where I get confused is understanding how it can be a Good Thing to couple this with more sensitive speakers. To me this would suggest that, for a given loudness, the amp's volume control would have to be set even lower than before.

Do modern amps work effectively even if the volume control never goes above (say) 8 o'clock?

Thanks,

Moriaty