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How to add some zest to a pleasant system


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I'm currently running an Arcam A28 into PMC DB1i's, routing my sources (NAD C516 BEE and Bluesound Node 2) through an Arcam irDac ii. I also have a Schiit Loki that I have fun with. On the whole the sound is clear and detailed and 'nice' - perfect for long listening sessions - but lacks that edge of your seat 'oomph'.  I do like it but sometimes want a bit more. 

 

I guess what I'm wondering is what route would give add a bit more spirit to my system without radical restructuring? I've tried moving the speakers all over the place and am a bit skeptical about spending what I do have on cables, interconnects etc.. 

 

Reading round all the articles/reviews etc. on the various bits of my system I suspect the A28 is possibly  the culprit and the best candidate for 'alteration'.  One route I've pondered is adding a power amp to the mix and either using the irDac or the A28 as a pre-amp. But, given I'm a relative beginner at this stuff, I could be totally going in the wrong direction, not understanding  stuff, and talking gibberish to myself. I do, however, feel that adding something to the system rather than replacing bits of it might help. And also not cost an arm and a leg. Or maybe not.

 

Dunno. Any ideas or advice?

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How's rock sound when you crank it a bit? Pretty much any limitation in my system goes away with a little added volume.... Heck the main limitation I have is how loud my wife lets me play 

In my experience the awfulness of low Dynamic Range is revealed the more you improve your system. While I agree with Satanica, ultimately the source material can let you down.   Like you luap

One thing to consider is - what you are really trying to add?  Is it:   Visceral chest-gasping bass? Stunningly clear detail and transparency? Instrument and vocal 'presence'?

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One thing to consider is - what you are really trying to add? 

Is it:

 

Visceral chest-gasping bass?

Stunningly clear detail and transparency?

Instrument and vocal 'presence'?

Wide and clear imaging?

Treble air and brilliance?

Sweetness and euphonics?

etc?

 

These all mean potentially different types of upgrades and some of them involve flat-out colouration, which may come at the expense of enjoyment of other types of music...

 

FWIW I've lost faith in the concept of a perfect system and think it's about finding the particular set of compromises that suits your personal taste.

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22 minutes ago, RCAJack said:

I wonder what levels you normally listen at...

 

It's an 'under-asked' question and goes hand-in-hand with 'how big is ur listening area'.  Personally, most of my upgrades were chasing a room-filling sound without compromising SQ,  which doesn't come that cheap for a large room 😢

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7 hours ago, luapnodyl said:

I'm currently running an Arcam A28 into PMC DB1i's, routing my sources (NAD C516 BEE and Bluesound Node 2) through an Arcam irDac ii. I also have a Schiit Loki that I have fun with. On the whole the sound is clear and detailed and 'nice' - perfect for long listening sessions - but lacks that edge of your seat 'oomph'.  I do like it but sometimes want a bit more. 

 

I guess what I'm wondering is what route would give add a bit more spirit to my system without radical restructuring? I've tried moving the speakers all over the place and am a bit skeptical about spending what I do have on cables, interconnects etc.. 

 

Reading round all the articles/reviews etc. on the various bits of my system I suspect the A28 is possibly  the culprit and the best candidate for 'alteration'.  One route I've pondered is adding a power amp to the mix and either using the irDac or the A28 as a pre-amp. But, given I'm a relative beginner at this stuff, I could be totally going in the wrong direction, not understanding  stuff, and talking gibberish to myself. I do, however, feel that adding something to the system rather than replacing bits of it might help. And also not cost an arm and a leg. Or maybe not.

 

Dunno. Any ideas or advice?

I have just reviewed the schematics for the A28 - and its no wonder your audio experience is less than it should be.

 

45 minutes ago, tripitaka said:

One thing to consider is - what you are really trying to add? 

Is it:

 

Visceral chest-gasping bass?

Stunningly clear detail and transparency?

Instrument and vocal 'presence'?

Wide and clear imaging?

Treble air and brilliance?

Sweetness and euphonics?

etc?

 

These all mean potentially different types of upgrades and some of them involve flat-out colouration, which may come at the expense of enjoyment of other types of music...

 

FWIW I've lost faith in the concept of a perfect system and think it's about finding the particular set of compromises that suits your personal taste.

Think instead of simple clean signal paths, and all of that you list but without any coloration, and accompanied,  with enjoyment of all types of music then becomes possible.

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Thanks for all your replies

\\

Klipsch horn speakers look interesting but truth be told I really like the PMCs. Also just bought them 

 

Added to that I guess it's really hard to pin down what I feel I'm missing. It does feel like the table leg scenario - solving one issue will likely create another. 

 

My tastes are eclectic and range from classical, jazz, acoustic through to rock. They really do change regularly - for example I've taken a completely unexpected shine to Swedish Death Metal. Go figure. So I guess I need a system that is good with many types of music rather than best for one or two. Which is probably what I've got.

 

I don't listen too loud - maybe that's the issue. They system was put together by lurking on forums and trying to work out what complemented what. So  the irDac was a no brainer for the A28 and I also read that there was a good synergy between PMC speakers and Arcam amps. 

 

So, in the final analysis, I'm not sure what I'm looking for, whether it would achieve any greater level of listening satisfaction if I were to find it. 

 

This is the bit where I envy my son who just loves listening to his music through his Bose wireless speaker. Ah well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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12 minutes ago, stereo coffee said:

I have just reviewed the schematics for the A28 - and its no wonder your audio experience is less than it should be.

 

Think instead of simple clean signal paths, and all of that you list but without any coloration, and accompanied,  with enjoyment of all types of music then becomes possible.

 

Question is how much do I have to spend to get this? Other members of the family have strange financial priorities 

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21 minutes ago, tripitaka said:

It's an 'under-asked' question and goes hand-in-hand with 'how big is ur listening area'.  Personally, most of my upgrades were chasing a room-filling sound without compromising SQ,  which doesn't come that cheap for a large room 😢

The room is large and, yes, I have though that maybe I need bigger speakers or should just turn it all up. I do feel I'm teetering on the brink of a spending abyss unless I'm careful

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3 minutes ago, luapnodyl said:

The room is large and, yes, I have though that maybe I need bigger speakers or should just turn it all up. I do feel I'm teetering on the brink of a spending abyss unless I'm careful

Bigger ... tick

PMC... tick 

 

 

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14 hours ago, sir sanders zingmore said:

Bigger ... tick

PMC... tick 

 

 

Maybe if I sell one of my son's kidneys - this could work!

Edited by luapnodyl
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5 minutes ago, luapnodyl said:

 

 

Question is how much do I have to spend to get this? Other members of the family have strange financial priorities 

Then allow time, to prioritize your goal of better audio. If family needs  come first then that is how it has to be.  

 

The recipe I have had success with is using a power amplifier per channel, and matching each power amp to the actual output that CD's and the majority of line level equipment actually produces. there are then NO level changes at all to deal with, other than necessary attenuation

 

Here it is in color and black , firstly lets look at the RMS ( Root Mean Square ) voltage level a commercial streaming file has, as can be seen its no higher in light blue than +/- 350mv 

 

758555961_Screenshotfrom2020-07-0420-05-59.png.10bd4f51d6ab88bb4023910c2d43826f.png 

 

then we look at a well made commercial low distortion power amp, like this one. I happen to use two of these power amp using one channel of each per speaker as that is what sounds best with this amplifier   https://www.hifiengine.com/manual_library/quad/306.shtml

As we can see it matches perfectly as it has extremely low distortion, and it has perfect sensitivity of 375mv

 

 

35983846_Screenshotfrom2020-09-2923-29-48.png.6cb0b26dc3db34e6f8a4f4b7508d1da9.png

 

All then that is required is your preference in passive attenuation, and a good set of speakers, and if you like the type you presently use then they will only sound better from here on in, if you attend to matching source to power amp level, and in the process avoid unnecessary level changes. 

 

 

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4 minutes ago, stereo coffee said:

Then allow time, to prioritize your goal of better audio. If family needs  come first then that is how it has to be.  

 

The recipe I have had success with is using a power amplifier per channel, and matching each power amp to the actual output that CD's and the majority of line level equipment actually produces. there are then NO level changes at all to deal with, other than necessary attenuation

 

Here it is in color and black , firstly lets look at the RMS ( Root Mean Square ) voltage level a commercial streaming file has, as can be seen its no higher in light blue than +/- 350mv 

 

758555961_Screenshotfrom2020-07-0420-05-59.png.10bd4f51d6ab88bb4023910c2d43826f.png 

 

then we look at a well made commercial low distortion power amp, like this one. I happen to use two of these power amp using one channel of each per speaker as that is what sounds best with this amplifier   https://www.hifiengine.com/manual_library/quad/306.shtml

As we can see it matches perfectly as it has extremely low distortion, and it has perfect sensitivity of 375mv

 

 

35983846_Screenshotfrom2020-09-2923-29-48.png.6cb0b26dc3db34e6f8a4f4b7508d1da9.png

 

All then that is required is your preference in passive attenuation, and a good set of speakers, and if you like the type you presently use then they will only sound better from here on in, if you attend to matching source to power amp level, and in the process avoid unnecessary level changes. 

 

 

This is the bit where I wish I had paid attention in Physics classes. Saying that you have explained this really well. I think this is a project for years rather than weeks so that's good to know. I can listen more easily.

 

Funnily enough it was listening to a friends system that was based around Quad components that got me wanting to move away from budget equipment. Astonishing sound but sadly no longer in touch and have no memory what he was using, 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Nordost said:

A large room will sound better with large speakers.if you listen to all types of music you really need two different speakers as no pair of speakers can play all music types well In my opinion.

You're probably right but, damn it, I remember buying my first system as a Uni student (Dual turntable, Marantz amp and Mission speakers and matching stands) and lugging it around for 20 years and being real happy with it no matter what I threw at it. Upgrading doesn't half introduce complexity into the equation

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48 minutes ago, luapnodyl said:

You're probably right but, damn it, I remember buying my first system as a Uni student (Dual turntable, Marantz amp and Mission speakers and matching stands) and lugging it around for 20 years and being real happy with it no matter what I threw at it. Upgrading doesn't half introduce complexity into the equation

Course the other excellent option is just Stop Now 😄, as it not only an expensive process but it's incredibly time consuming.  

As success comes down to your personal and quite idiosynchratic hearing/perceptions, there is no recipe for success and those that tell you otherwise are selling something

🤣🤣🤣

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47 minutes ago, tripitaka said:

Course the other excellent option is just Stop Now 😄, as it not only an expensive process but it's incredibly time consuming.  

As success comes down to your personal and quite idiosynchratic hearing/perceptions, there is no recipe for success and those that tell you otherwise are selling something

🤣🤣🤣

Wise words and excellent advice 

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1 hour ago, luapnodyl said:

You're probably right but, damn it, I remember buying my first system as a Uni student (Dual turntable, Marantz amp and Mission speakers and matching stands) and lugging it around for 20 years and being real happy with it no matter what I threw at it. Upgrading doesn't half introduce complexity into the equation

From what you've said about your music tastes and listening requirements, different speakers are likely the answer IMO. Your current speakers are great but that doesn't mean you won't prefer something different, nor does it necessarily mean climbing the ladder to something more expensive. I've seen various sub $1K floorstanders in the classifieds that I'm confident would get you closer to what you want. Pity it's such a nightmare to have a demo at the moment but you really need the opportunity to demo equipment before buying.

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@luapnodyl purely based on reviews/articles i would also conclude that the A28 is the prime culprit in not delivering the zest you crave. 

 

Hence adding a (quality) power amp per your original post might work, or else replacing the A28 altogether with a different integrated amp.  Depending on your non-disclosed budget Hegel integrated might be worth considering...high damping factor (grip/control of speakers)..stable into low Ohm loads etc.  They have a in home trial offer i think.

 

And if you haven't already done so, have a look over in the PMC owners thread.  You might find good experience re amplification / or repost your question there...and very importantly describe your room size, listening position, and give them the context of what your immediate budget is, or future budget might be.  A lot of patience sometimes required eh 🙂

 

Hope that helps ya.   

Cheers

Ticc

Edited by 2Brix
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12 hours ago, tripitaka said:

One thing to consider is - what you are really trying to add? 

Is it:

 

1. Visceral chest-gasping bass?

2. Stunningly clear detail and transparency?

3. Instrument and vocal 'presence'?

4. Wide and clear imaging?

5. Treble air and brilliance?

6. Sweetness and euphonics?

etc?

 

These all mean potentially different types of upgrades and some of them involve flat-out colouration, which may come at the expense of enjoyment of other types of music...

 

FWIW I've lost faith in the concept of a perfect system and think it's about finding the particular set of compromises that suits your personal taste.

I hope you don't mind though I've added numbers when quoting you.

 

My experience is that you can achieve 1 through 5 in a single system,  and 6 can also be achieved if you're only looking to add a hint of it however it can detract from the other points.

 

That said,  my system lacks point 1 as it's not a priority for me. 

Edited by MattyW
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33 minutes ago, MattyW said:

I hope you don't mind though I've added numbers when quoting you.

 

My experience is that you can achieve 1 through 5 in a single system,  and 6 can also be achieved if you're only looking to add a hint of it however it can detract from the other points.

 

That said,  my system lacks point 1 as it's not a priority for me. 

All fair enough 👍, yet a 'ruler flat' response might be sonic heaven to some and 'dull and lifeless' to others, my point being that we dont really know what 'zest' means to the OP 🤣🤣

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28 minutes ago, tripitaka said:

All fair enough 👍, yet a 'ruler flat' response might be sonic heaven to some and 'dull and lifeless' to others, my point being that we dont really know what 'zest' means to the OP 🤣🤣

True enough. 

 

For me I find that Duelund DCA16GA tinned copper wire between amp and speakers brings any system to life.....

 

Likewise,  the upcoming line of Duelund / Neotech UPOCC interconnects from Aurealis Audio do the same thing.

 

The interconnects are better though. I like my amplification chain to be ruler flat/utterly transparent and prefer to influence the sound from the source to preamp only. I find that gets the best results for me. :)

Edited by MattyW
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2 hours ago, tripitaka said:

All fair enough 👍, yet a 'ruler flat' response might be sonic heaven to some and 'dull and lifeless' to others, my point being that we dont really know what 'zest' means to the OP 🤣🤣

Very true. To be honest I’m not even sure what I mean by zest other than something other. Given I mainly sense this when I’m listening to rock but not to , say, jazz, acoustic or classical, I’m guessing what I’m feeling a lack of is that visceral excitement you can get when listening to rock music. But it’s ever so slight. To be honest I’ve probably decided it’s there and am now suffering from confirmation bias or an unconscious urge to upgrade that is now manifesting itself on the conscious plane or something like that.

Edited by luapnodyl
Can't spell
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The amp and speaker combination will never deliver a decent rock performance.  Either upgrade them or accept their limitations. 

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How's rock sound when you crank it a bit? Pretty much any limitation in my system goes away with a little added volume.... Heck the main limitation I have is how loud my wife lets me play  :(

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