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Would better amplification solve congestion ?


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Hi all ; I don't mean nasal or lung congestion, but it was the best term I could think of to describe my auditory experience when listening to big climaxes on large scale orchestral and pipe organ music. I've been reasonably happy with my current set up, consisting of : B&W CM5S2 stand mount speakers, Rega Apollo CDP ( circa 2005 model ), Rotel RC 1070 pre amp, and Retrothermionic class D power amp ( 100 wpc ) and an older REL T3 subbie.  A nice, all round system.

But being a long time attendee of live symphony orchestra and pipe organ concerts, as well as a ( very amateur ) player of piano & organ, I know the type of sound I want and just can't seem to get it with my equipment. As mentioned above, the main issue is what I call congestion when the music gets to " fff " levels. I can't enjoy it at " realistic " levels ( within reason of course, as I have a small - ish room and neighbours to consider ). The situation isn't as bad with playing vinyl. Perhaps the digital medium is the problem ?

 

I would have thought the 100 wpc power amp would be sufficient to handle it, but maybe Class D isn't quite right for my requirements ..... ?

In the past, I've enjoyed valve amps very much, but gave up on them, due to cost, size and weight.

 

I would be grateful for any advice from more learned and experienced members.

Cheers,

Dennis

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Its pretty obvious too much is being asked of the speakers as they're far too small, and a 2-way, to cope with the demands of complex music played a reasonable levels.   

Did someone mention an Elektra?    

The instruments you describe have very low frequency extension, especially the organ, and require insane amounts of energy to be reproduced. The extra low frequency of digital audio is what's killing

How big is your room? Could you get away with a pair of floor standers?  I believe bigger is always better and have always gone with the biggest speakers my room could handle without going over the top.

 

If you want to play at realistic levels bigger speakers are always better. Stand mounts and a lot of floorstanders harden up when pushed especially during a big crescendo or the end of Telegraph Road for that matter.

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1 hour ago, Berkel said:

The situation isn't as bad with playing vinyl. Perhaps the digital medium is the problem ?

 

Perhaps compare the two sources while listening via headphones.  When you are happy with the source sounding right, then procede with the rest of the system.

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12 minutes ago, kelossus said:

How big is your room? Could you get away with a pair of floor standers?  I believe bigger is always better and have always gone with the biggest speakers my room could handle without going over the top.

 

If you want to play at realistic levels bigger speakers are always better. Stand mounts and a lot of floorstanders harden up when pushed especially during a big crescendo or the end of Telegraph Road for that matter.

I'd love to see your version of over the top :D

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Thanks for the useful suggestions. The room is approx. 5.5 m x 3.5 m. My piano is against the long wall.

Aussie Vintage : your idea about headphone comparison is excellent, and I'd already decided to try it.

Didn't get around to doing so today.

Chris : I've always had floor standing speakers in the past, and preferred their sound. I decided to get stand mounts to save room ( bit of an oxymoron, as they still have the same footprint ), and thought ( rightly or wrongly ) floor standers would be overwhelming in this room. I love the quality of sound from the B&Ws, and with the REL it's quite reasonable, but still NQR.

 

Cheers,

Dennis

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Given that you do not have the problem with vinyl, it is unlikely to be due to lack of amplification. 

 

I suspect you should look at updating your CD player. It is not resolving enough to give all the details, leading to your congestion problem.

 

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I think you should upgrade CD player + better class D power amp + speakers B&W 805

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Its pretty obvious too much is being asked of the speakers as they're far too small, and a 2-way, to cope with the demands of complex music played a reasonable levels.   

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4 hours ago, Berkel said:

Hi all ; I don't mean nasal or lung congestion, but it was the best term I could think of to describe my auditory experience when listening to big climaxes on large scale orchestral and pipe organ music.

 

It's exackly the right term, Dennis!  :)

 

4 hours ago, Berkel said:

I would have thought the 100 wpc power amp would be sufficient to handle it, but maybe Class D isn't quite right for my requirements ..... ?

 

As you heard when I bought over my Class AB AKSA 'Soraya' monoblocs, last year - they made your B&W CM5S2 stand mounts sound much better than the Class D did.

 

But they are a lot more expensive.  :(

 

However, a recent experience suggests to me that it could be your B&W CM5S2 stand mounts that are killing your music!  :(  So maybe you need to change them (and keep the 100w Class D amp)?

 

A mate has some B&W stand mounts - possibly a different model to yours ... but not much bigger?  He started off driving them with a Weston tube amp - and though the sound was great at average volumes ... it sounded congested at crescendos.

 

He then bought an Elektra stereo amp - I think 300w per channel.  This made his B&Ws sound much better!  :thumb:

 

But recently, he compared his Elektra with a Magtech - 500wpc into 8 ohms and 900w into 4 ohms.

 

This completely blew away his Elektra ... and he was fortunate to be able to buy a Magtech s/h.

 

So it looks like B&W spkrs need huge amounts of power for them to sound their best.  :(

 

Andy

 

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In terms of circuitry - looking for reasons that might explain, just  involving the signal path your Rotel preamp https://www.hifiengine.com/manual_library/rotel/rc-1070.shtml  has as I see many unnecessary contacts, and many components adding reactance and phase change,  which might pretty quickly explain congestion. 

 

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1 hour ago, Berkel said:

Aussie Vintage : your idea about headphone comparison is excellent, and I'd already decided to try it.

 

 

Great. 

 

I just wanted to add that I have experienced this "congestion".  It bothers me on large choral pieces at the end of some Operas.  In the case of vinyl,  I found that  better stylus shapes are key to reducing it.  Especially when these passages are at the end of a recording where styluses struggle to track.  A microline stylus has proved to be the best at handling it.

 

Of course it can also come from other places in the signal chain.  Try to avoid running close to the maximum signal that a preamp or power amp can handle (maybe your CD player puts out a hotter line level signal than your phono preamp here, and maybe that's why you say it sounds worse). Most real world devices have some inherent distortion that usually is worst near their limits.  That distortion will muddy up complex passages, giving the music a "congested" sound as you describe.

Edited by aussievintage
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I’m in the camp of bigger speakers is better for orchestral and complex music passages. 
 

Build a 3-way pair of speakers with 15” woofer, horn for midrange and a super tweeter. Recently found this build on a Japanese audiophile’s blog, few years old but I’m tempted to build it myself: 

 

https://nobody-audio.com/ver1/English/NOBODY/components/ss-309/ss-309_en.html

 

plenty like it too, the econowave two-way build has a huge thread on another forum, for example. 
 

The advantage of this approach is (generally) high efficiency, meaning you don’t necessarily have to spend big $$ initially on amplification. 
 

My 2 cents...

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Thanks again folks. All good suggestions, but I'm unsure which to tackle first.

I have limited funds ( the age pension doesn't allow much " mad money " to spend on audio ) so what's the 1st

" line of attack ", i.e. cost : benefit ratio ?

 

Dennis

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3 minutes ago, Berkel said:

Thanks again folks. All good suggestions, but I'm unsure which to tackle first.

I have limited funds ( the age pension doesn't allow much " mad money " to spend on audio ) so what's the 1st

" line of attack ", i.e. cost : benefit ratio ?

 

Dennis

 

I would suggest a more powerful amp. Orchestral peaks place significant demands on amplifiers. If you want to be able to swing those peaks at significant volume without clipping, you will need a more capable amp.

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As others have mentioned it’s probably the two way speakers not coping, but other I ssues may well be adding the problem room acoustics (seated too close to wall, position in the room and too much room reverberation echo, not enough room damping and objects to breakup reflections etc)

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Thanks for the latest advice.

 

Pending listening through headphones to compare digital and vinyl sources, it seems I should look for larger speakers with higher sensitivity or more powerful amp.

There's a Rotel RB 1070 for sale on another site, which would match with my RC 1070. What's the feeling on this please ? I think it's 130 wpc. There's also a Plinius integrated on SNA.

 

My " intuition " is for floor standing speakers which are easier to drive, but as I mentioned earlier, I'm open to suggestions from more experienced audiophiles.

Cheers,

Dennis

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Good afternoon all,

 

The latest experiment I've done was listening to digital via headphones ( Philips Fidelio X2HR ).

It proved to be quite good, without the congestion  experienced through the speakers.

I'm still unsure in which direction to go : bigger ( more sensitive ? ) speakers or more powerful amp.

 

Experienced opinions would be welcome.

 

Cheers,

Dennis

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3 way at least.

 

You say smallish room, can you elaborate on the room?

 

Maybe let us know what sort of budget you have in mind.

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15 minutes ago, Berkel said:

bigger ( more sensitive ? ) speakers or more powerful amp

 

 

It would be good to try different speakers.  You have a 100 WPC amp now, which should be plenty.  I think speaker efficiency is more key than whether it is 1, 2 or more way.   This will let you run the amp at lower power generally, giving it more room to handle the loud passages.

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FF is 100dB. So your speakers, at 88db w/m sensitivity will, at say 3 meters from you, need to fed at least 50 watts RMS with peaks of over 100 watts. Your poor speakers are rated at "recommended 30 watts".  The congestion is most likely intermodulation distortion in the woofers.  You should be reported to the RSPCS.;)

 

https://myhometheater.homestead.com/splcalculator.html

remembering that a lot of speaker manufacturers over-cook their sensitivity so 88db w/m might be less. 

Edited by deepthought
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The instruments you describe have very low frequency extension, especially the organ, and require insane amounts of energy to be reproduced. The extra low frequency of digital audio is what's killing your dynamics compared to your vinyl. Once your main speakers move beyond a certain amount of excursion they are no longer operating in their linear range - that is the "congestion" you are describing. Your main speakers will be trying to reproduce the ultra low frequencies that the subwoofer is doing and although they will have no meaningful output, they will still be moving a lot.  Note that more current drive from a higher current amplifier will often control the speakers better, but may only partially alleviate the problem without solving it. Vinyl is often mixed in a way that is more easily reproduced in the home (often low frequencies are blended into a mono signal for example.) Whether vinyl goes down to 16Hz at the same amplitude as digital for the same recording or not will be highly variable and some recordings will definitely not. To reproduce your vinyl source your amplification and especially speakers don't need to go as low and therefore can effectively go louder in the rest of the frequency response.  You need - bigger speakers that can perform more excursion and/or more power and/or more current drive OR you need to actively cross over your main speakers to not work as hard. If you are simply passively adding the Rel subwoofer then the main speakers still work just as hard whether the subwoofer is there or not. If you are actually crossing over the mains (such as through the subwoofer's crossover) then they won't work as hard. Once you do that you also have the option of pushing the crossover higher to allow the main speakers to breathe more - standmounts really shouldn't be trying to reproduce an organ. Conventional wisdom suggests you can go as high as 80Hz with a single subwoofer.

Edited by Ittaku
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5 minutes ago, Ittaku said:

The instruments you describe have very low frequency extension, especially the organ, and require insane amounts of energy to be reproduced. The extra low frequency of digital audio is what's killing your dynamics compared to your vinyl. Once your main speakers move beyond a certain amount of excursion they are no longer operating in their linear range - that is the "congestion" you are describing. Your main speakers will be trying to reproduce the ultra low frequencies that the subwoofer is doing and although they will have no meaningful output, they will still be moving a lot.  Note that more current drive from a higher current amplifier will often control the speakers better, but may only partially alleviate the problem without solving it. Vinyl is often mixed in a way that is more easily reproduced in the home (often low frequencies are blended into a mono signal for example.) Whether vinyl goes down to 16Hz at the same amplitude as digital for the same recording or not will be highly variable and some recordings will definitely not. To reproduce your vinyl source your amplification and especially speakers don't need to go as low and therefore can effectively go louder in the rest of the frequency response.  You need - bigger speakers that can perform more excursion and/or more power and/or more current drive OR you need to actively cross over your main speakers to not work as hard. If you are simply passively adding the Rel subwoofer then the main speakers still work just as hard whether the subwoofer is there or not. If you are actually crossing over the mains (such as through the subwoofer's crossover) then they won't work as hard. Once you do that you also have the option of pushing the crossover higher to allow the main speakers to breathe more - standmounts really shouldn't be trying to reproduce an organ. Conventional wisdom suggests you can go as high as 80Hz with a single subwoofer.

Good idea. To the OP, don't be afraid to experiment with going higher than 80hz, especially if you can place your subwoofer in a central location in the room.

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48 minutes ago, Ittaku said:

The extra low frequency of digital audio is what's killing your dynamics compared to your vinyl.

 

Yes :yes: I've often thought this could be a reason towards why those prefer vinyl over digital (along with other things).

 

43 minutes ago, deepthought said:

Good idea. To the OP, don't be afraid to experiment with going higher than 80hz, especially if you can place your subwoofer in a central location in the room.

 

A crossover to a subwoofer at 80Hz will alleviate the speakers and amplifier of so much work to do.

A bit higher then 80Hz (100Hz maybe) could be an option and as you say especially if the sub-woofer was centralised.

 

80Hz

Crossover Frequency Choice and/or opinion...???

 

100Hz

 

24dB-L-R.jpg

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1 hour ago, muon* said:

3 way at least.

 

You say smallish room, can you elaborate on the room?

 

Maybe let us know what sort of budget you have in mind.

The room is about 5.5 meters by 3.5.

On one long side are windows ( almost floor to ceiling ) and on the other my piano.

I have the sub woofer tucked in one corner.

Budget is pretty restricted and I could only afford something " used ". Say, max. $1500, but less would be better.

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1 hour ago, aussievintage said:

 

 

It would be good to try different speakers.  You have a 100 WPC amp now, which should be plenty.  I think speaker efficiency is more key than whether it is 1, 2 or more way.   This will let you run the amp at lower power generally, giving it more room to handle the loud passages.

Is 100 wpc in Class D different from Class A/B ?

I never have the volume above 10 ( on the clock face ), so there seems to be plenty of power.

I've had older NADs previously, with their " power envelope ", so should I look at something like this ?

 

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1 hour ago, deepthought said:

FF is 100dB. So your speakers, at 88db w/m sensitivity will, at say 3 meters from you, need to fed at least 50 watts RMS with peaks of over 100 watts. Your poor speakers are rated at "recommended 30 watts".  The congestion is most likely intermodulation distortion in the woofers.  You should be reported to the RSPCS.;)

 

https://myhometheater.homestead.com/splcalculator.html

remembering that a lot of speaker manufacturers over-cook their sensitivity so 88db w/m might be less. 

I'm really not that cruel ! I do have a sub woofer to take some of the bass frequency off the B&Ws !

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58 minutes ago, Ittaku said:

The instruments you describe have very low frequency extension, especially the organ, and require insane amounts of energy to be reproduced. The extra low frequency of digital audio is what's killing your dynamics compared to your vinyl. Once your main speakers move beyond a certain amount of excursion they are no longer operating in their linear range - that is the "congestion" you are describing. Your main speakers will be trying to reproduce the ultra low frequencies that the subwoofer is doing and although they will have no meaningful output, they will still be moving a lot.  Note that more current drive from a higher current amplifier will often control the speakers better, but may only partially alleviate the problem without solving it. Vinyl is often mixed in a way that is more easily reproduced in the home (often low frequencies are blended into a mono signal for example.) Whether vinyl goes down to 16Hz at the same amplitude as digital for the same recording or not will be highly variable and some recordings will definitely not. To reproduce your vinyl source your amplification and especially speakers don't need to go as low and therefore can effectively go louder in the rest of the frequency response.  You need - bigger speakers that can perform more excursion and/or more power and/or more current drive OR you need to actively cross over your main speakers to not work as hard. If you are simply passively adding the Rel subwoofer then the main speakers still work just as hard whether the subwoofer is there or not. If you are actually crossing over the mains (such as through the subwoofer's crossover) then they won't work as hard. Once you do that you also have the option of pushing the crossover higher to allow the main speakers to breathe more - standmounts really shouldn't be trying to reproduce an organ. Conventional wisdom suggests you can go as high as 80Hz with a single subwoofer.

Thanks Con,

I'm not very good with technical matters connected with audio, but I interpret your contribution as meaning that the connection of the sub woofer to the amp can vary and produce less strain on the speakers.... am I correct ? My current set up is having the sub connector cable  ( Neutrink )attached to the speaker binding posts of the amp, which REL recommends.

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57 minutes ago, deepthought said:

Good idea. To the OP, don't be afraid to experiment with going higher than 80hz, especially if you can place your subwoofer in a central location in the room.

Do you mean the sub crossover at or above 80 Hz ? I think it's set around 50.

Also placing the sub centrally ? Manufacturer and other literature, recommends a corner location, but I really don't know. I think I'd rather do without the sub and have full - range speakers, which I've had previously.

Interestingly, when I heard the B&Ws at the dealers on some of my organ music, I asked the salesman ....

" where is the sub woofer ? " and he smiled and said there wasn't one ! I don't get this effect at home.

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23 minutes ago, Satanica said:

 

Yes :yes: I've often thought this could be a reason towards why those prefer vinyl over digital (along with other things).

 

 

A crossover to a subwoofer at 80Hz will alleviate the speakers and amplifier of so much work to do.

A bit higher then 80Hz (100Hz maybe) could be an option and as you say especially if the sub-woofer was centralised.

Verrrry interesting ! ( If you're from the era of " Laugh In " )

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9 minutes ago, Berkel said:

I'm not very good with technical matters connected with audio, but I interpret your contribution as meaning that the connection of the sub woofer to the amp can vary and produce less strain on the speakers.... am I correct ? My current set up is having the sub connector cable  ( Neutrink )attached to the speaker binding posts of the amp, which REL recommends.

Yes, your approach is a "passive" one, meaning it makes absolutely no difference what you set your subwoofer to, the speakers will strain hard always. The advice about raising the crossover frequency won't help you on its own. You need an actual crossover which will stop sending the low frequencies to your amplifier and subsequently your speakers, and this virtually always goes at line level - not speaker level connections.

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And by the way, Rel recommend what they recommend (speaker level connections) because they've maintained that approach long long long before there was almost any other company making subwoofers for high end audio and to backtrack now would put egg on their faces. Back then real crossovers were hard to implement and most pre/power or integrated amp combinations weren't flexible enough to put them in place, so speaker level connections made sense.

Edited by Ittaku
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Oh, thanks for that info. Does it mean that I will need a separate external xover ?

 

Perhaps I'll try running without the sub and  listen to the results. I've had people tell me that a sub diminishes sound quality, but  I vividly remember one of the best systems I heard, quite a number of years ago, consisted of a pair of small speakers ( can't recollect what they were ), powered by an Audio Note amp, with a REL sub.

It blew me away with how good organ music was presented.

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16 minutes ago, Berkel said:

Oh, thanks for that info. Does it mean that I will need a separate external xover ?

Alas that particular subwoofer from Rel doesn't come with a crossover you can use (other brands do.) There's no such thing as "need" but you are likely to get more of what you want with that combination.

 

17 minutes ago, Berkel said:

I vividly remember one of the best systems I heard, quite a number of years ago, consisted of a pair of small speakers ( can't recollect what they were ), powered by an Audio Note amp, with a REL sub.

It blew me away with how good organ music was presented.

No doubt, but execution is more important than the components. Without knowing how it was set up it's really guessing and not comparable.

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37 minutes ago, Berkel said:

Thanks Con,

I'm not very good with technical matters connected with audio, but I interpret your contribution as meaning that the connection of the sub woofer to the amp can vary and produce less strain on the speakers.... am I correct ? My current set up is having the sub connector cable  ( Neutrink )attached to the speaker binding posts of the amp, which REL recommends.

I didn't even think about the fact that your speakers are being feed a full range signal. Yes, you'd need a high-pass filter that gets rids of the bass to your main speakers that corresponds to the low pass crossover that the REL's have. And it's passive so you can't filter out the bass from the mains at the moment unless you work out a way of powering the REL.

 

One solution would be to get a decent subwoofer amplifier that has a built in high and low pass filter. Most of them will allow you to either feed the full signal from the amp', send the low freqs to the sub and the highs pass through to the main speakers. They mostly allow you to do this at a low signal level too which may or may not be preferable.

Or you could buy another subwoofer that has it's own amplfier.

 

Either way, you need to be able to filter the low freq's getting to the mains.

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I suggest improving the source and speakers first, and then looking at amplification etc., if required. 

I would get a Chord Mojo and use that as an external DAC for the CD player.  Great little DACs which sound amazing. I had one and loved it. You can pick it up around the $400 mark. 

Next pick up some floor standers. 

I saw some great deals in the classified for custom (DIY) speakers around the $1200 mark. 

 

I am sure these would make a marked improvement on the sound.  

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@andyr

So it looks like B&W spkrs need huge amounts of power for them to sound their best.  :(

Yes, I can vouch for this with my PMC'S, 100 into 8 ohms just wasn'y controlling the lower end, once the Newprime class 'D'  and 200 watts into 8 ohms was put in place, problem solved, a revelation across mid to lower frequencies, real punch and power.

 

You could fiddle around with cross over on the REL, but I don't believe it would help with the kind of music you listen to.

 

*Firstly, I would seriously look at audiotioning something with huge drivers 10-12 inches, something from Cerwin Vega, old JBL's or if you require more accuracy, Spatial open baffle would be ideal. Here, you'll engage greater scale and your listening preferences might sound ok.

 

if this doesn't work, do what @Irekrecommends, start all over again.

 

*Marantz 15s1 SACD player for $950 in SNA, crazy value and honest player.

PMC 25.21,   2.2k used, you'll get separation and good scale, accuracy, brilliant timing.

 

 

 

Frank.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

d

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1 hour ago, deepthought said:

I didn't even think about the fact that your speakers are being feed a full range signal. Yes, you'd need a high-pass filter that gets rids of the bass to your main speakers that corresponds to the low pass crossover that the REL's have. And it's passive so you can't filter out the bass from the mains at the moment unless you work out a way of powering the REL.

 

One solution would be to get a decent subwoofer amplifier that has a built in high and low pass filter. Most of them will allow you to either feed the full signal from the amp', send the low freqs to the sub and the highs pass through to the main speakers. They mostly allow you to do this at a low signal level too which may or may not be preferable.

Or you could buy another subwoofer that has it's own amplfier.

 

Either way, you need to be able to filter the low freq's getting to the mains.

The REL T3 has its' own 150 W amp.

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55 minutes ago, maximus said:

@andyr

So it looks like B&W spkrs need huge amounts of power for them to sound their best.  :(

Yes, I can vouch for this with my PMC'S, 100 into 8 ohms just wasn'y controlling the lower end, once the Newprime class 'D'  and 200 watts into 8 ohms was put in place, problem solved, a revelation across mid to lower frequencies, real punch and power.

 

You could fiddle around with cross over on the REL, but I don't believe it would help with the kind of music you listen to.

 

*Firstly, I would seriously look at audiotioning something with huge drivers 10-12 inches, something from Cerwin Vega, old JBL's or if you require more accuracy, Spatial open baffle would be ideal. Here, you'll engage greater scale and your listening preferences might sound ok.

 

if this doesn't work, do what @Irekrecommends, start all over again.

 

*Marantz 15s1 SACD player for $950 in SNA, crazy value and honest player.

PMC 25.21,   2.2k used, you'll get separation and good scale, accuracy, brilliant timing.

 

 

 

Frank.

 

 

I'm so surprised that my B&Ws would need THAT much power !

I've used them with 40 & 60 wpc amps and they sounded quite good.

From past experience, speakers with 12 or 15 " woofers can sound " flabby " in the bass.

At one time, I owned Tannoy Balmorals which were fantastic and had huge bass, but it was overblown

whereas in my early days into " proper " fidelity, I had a pair of ( you may not believe it ) Hafler cylindrical speakers with 2 x 6 1/2 + tweeter drivers, and they were damn good ( or I wasn't as discerning back then ! ). What proved the point to me about the Tannoys, was visiting a church in Germany, which housed a famous Baroque organ. Hearing it live showed that the Tannoy's bass was exaggerated.

Should I look at acquiring higher sensitivity speakers, which should allow a wider range of amps ?

 

55 minutes ago, maximus said:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

d

 

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