Need a few ideas and thoughts on system sound improvement...

Kutusov

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Hi,

I'm not all that happy with my current system sound but I'm not really an audiophile, so I'll have some difficulty explaining it. I don't know the lingo well enough so I'll have to try to convey it someother way...

The objective from the very start is to get a system that sounds good enough and that doesn't draw my attention away from the music and into some system shortcoming. Warm is better than analytical to me.

Keeping it simple, the current system is set up like this: PC as the only source into a Denafrips Ares II, that into a Rega Io into Q Acoustics 3050i.

Either the Io is not enough or I don't like its sound with these speakers (or both). I think the main problem is the midrange with these speakers, it's too shy and not expressive at all. Bass feels a bit uncontrolled but I'm not so sure if that is what I'm peaking up, might just be the problem with the midrange and a feeling that one is not well integrated into the other. Treble is fine as it is. I'm happy with imaging and details.

Overall, though, I feel the Io is somehow not enough for the speakers. It's like there's no meat on the bone and sometimes I even feel it is a bit dry. They seem to have quite a different character from the much better known and reviewed 3030i.

Speaking to a couple of people that know way way more about Hifi than me, and especially one that is familiar with the system, I was recommended to replace the Io with the NAD C316 V2 or, even better, with a Croft. From what I understand of those two, both would inject life into the midrange, so those recommendations sound right.

The NAD would be a very easy solution to try, especially since it's on sale on a couple of places. I'm just a bit afraid I would lose the clarity and soundstage of the Io. Is there something with a similar sound signature that is better?

The Croft... well, not impossible to get but the two volume knobs, plus no remote would make it hard to live with and I almost excluded it already just because of that. But the Croft has tubes in a hybrid configuration... and youtube reviewers have gone on and on about the Willsenton R8 tube amp. I never owned a tube amp but I like very much what I've heard. Should sort my midrange problem and fill up my towers too. But I play pretty much all genres of music and I'm not sure that Pop or Metal would sound good with it or, let's put it another way, if that is something that can be my only amp. What makes me pounder about it is Tarun's review (The British Audiophile on youtube) that gave it the highest score and states it is the best amp he heard bellow 2000 quid (solid state or tube). I respect his takes on gear and he seems very conservative and not influenceable at all, so I was very surprised with that particular review. But then again, the Ares II is not Chinese tat at all and I'm very happy that I've spent €900 on it.

So, get the NAD, get something better, get the Willsenton? Or just replace the speakers (could be cheaper and more effective)?

Thoughts are welcomed!
 
Go audition some more efficient speakers?
Otherwise forget the Croft and look at a more conventional amplifier, perhaps something further up the Rega chain.
Depends on you budget of course.
Question is, why do you have your current components if it's not doing it for you?
personally I would avoid a low output vibe amp unless you really know what you're getting into as it could work out expensive
 
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Kutusov

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Auditioning stuff is always nearly impossible, not many places around here and they are mostly vey high end, gucci type stuff that a footballer would buy. Plus I have a room far from ideal, I think something that I would audition on a treated room would sound very different in my place...

I considered the Rega Brio and even the Elex-R. I still do, especially the Elex-R. The thing is, from what I've researched, they pretty much have the same sonic character, so I don't think they would work well with my speakers. I guess the class A Elicit sounds different but that's a lot of money.

But that leads to my hesitation, I guess... I either try to improve my current system, which I feel could still be significantly improved to a good enough level; or I start moving to a different one, meaning replacing speakers not thinking of amp matching at first, or changing amp not necessarily thinking about the Q Acoustics. I guess the NAD also makes sense in this last sense, as it should be a more solid basis for a future upgrade/replacement of speakers.
 

gasolin

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#2

Why more efficient speakers ? They have a real sensitivity of 89.5db, which is good

The speaker has a softness to the upper midrange,lower tweeter 1500-4000hz


Mabye cambridge audio ax 81 or the iotavx sa3 and pa3

A step up could be the Denon PMA-1600NE or hegel H95 both costs about the same,
 
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Kutusov

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Ah, those measures are interesting! And they tend more towards 4 ohm than the stated 6 nominal. And I was right about the midrange after all.

The Iota VX stack is something I've looked into but I would have to tape the PA3 lights as apparently you can't dim them. It's probably a dumb thing but I really, really dislike its looks and the lighted logos! :ROFLMAO:

The Hegel is pretty neutral, isn't it? And the price is pretty high, already close to the Exposure 2510 which I bet I would prefer...

I came across a couple of things I'm not at all familiar with. One is the Attol IN80 or even the 100. Muscular and coloured midrange apparently, could be interesting.

The other thing is the Chinese Jungson JA-1 and JA-99C stack. Has some pretty positive reviews and it's a powerful class A (that probably switches to A/B at some point). Best of all, blue lights can be switched off :p
 

bigfish786

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My advice is to try and make the best of what you have. If the room is not ideal, what makes you think buying anything else will make it sound better?
speaker position, soft furnishings, rug etc. decent cables, and decent stand for equipment and then spend time tweaking.
no point splashing the cash if you can’t improve the soundstage or the environment. 🤷🏻‍♂️
 
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Kutusov

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soeaker position, soft furnishings, rug etc. decent cables, and decent stand for equipment and then spend time tweaking.
no point splashing the cash if you can’t improve the soundstage or the environment. 🤷🏻‍♂️
Yes, I agree to a point. There's two walls with nothing on them (one right behind the speakers) but it's a rented flat with a very good chance of me not being here in a couple of years time. I've already rearranged the room twice and took me ages to find the best position for the speakers - apparently they like quite aggressive toe in . That made a huge difference.

Anyway, I might very well be wrong but I feel that not much more can be further done about room and positioning but I still feel like there's an important amp/speaker mismatch that could be very important.

But I fully take your point, a not ideal room plus the fact that I might have to move out not very far into the future begs caution about investments thinking about a not defined future. And that would make me try the NAD at least, for 300 and something euros it wouldn't be much of a gamble.


What nitrate are you feeding the dac
What do you mean by nitrate? You mean power? If it is that, then the Ares takes 220V straight from the wall and has it's own internal power supply.
 

RoA

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The Hegel H95 has little colour, it pretty much just amplifies and does it well. No harshness, great control and solidity to sound but it's not for everyone. What is?

Arcam's SA20 probably has what you are looking for. Decent body, great refined treble and warm, ample bass. Good DAC too, very good actually.. It doesn't quite have the midrange body or bass control of the Hegel but it's substantially cheaper

On a budget? Audiolab's 6000A is imho a bargain.

I recommend these as I currently use all of them. They have all been used with Stirling BBC Reference Monitors, speakers many times their cost and they all do a good job.
 
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rainsoothe

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Yes, I agree to a point. There's two walls with nothing on them (one right behind the speakers) but it's a rented flat with a very good chance of me not being here in a couple of years time. I've already rearranged the room twice and took me ages to find the best position for the speakers - apparently they like quite aggressive toe in . That made a huge difference.

Anyway, I might very well be wrong but I feel that not much more can be further done about room and positioning but I still feel like there's an important amp/speaker mismatch that could be very important.

But I fully take your point, a not ideal room plus the fact that I might have to move out not very far into the future begs caution about investments thinking about a not defined future. And that would make me try the NAD at least, for 300 and something euros it wouldn't be much of a gamble.




What do you mean by nitrate? You mean power? If it is that, then the Ares takes 220V straight from the wall and has it's own internal power supply.
Hi again :)

The "nitrate" was a typo, he meant Bitrate - as in are you playing crappy MP3 or flac/wav/hi-res?

On the loose bass issue, it's somewhat of a known flaw of the 3050 Q Acoustics, so I'd look at changing the speakers to suit the room first. I also think this should be your prio because if you also get an amp with more "meat on the bones", it's only going to exacerbate this issue.

What was the size of your room again, and where would the speakers be placed? (on what wall, how far away from back wall and sidewalls?)
 
Yes, I agree to a point. There's two walls with nothing on them (one right behind the speakers) but it's a rented flat with a very good chance of me not being here in a couple of years time. I've already rearranged the room twice and took me ages to find the best position for the speakers - apparently they like quite aggressive toe in . That made a huge difference.
Aggressive toe-in will make a huge difference to any loudspeaker, but if a loudspeakers needs it, that points to poor imaging in my opinion. That’s presuming of course that you’re sat no closer to them than they are apart from each other.

Having double checked the Q Acoustics’ spec, a sensitivity of 92dB should be helping the situation, and if it’s not, then the Rega is failing to control the 3050s. There’s a reason Rega generally make their speakers a nice easy load. Most of the time, small amps and big speakers just doesn’t work properly, regardless of whether the specs say otherwise.

Changing the amplification to help the midrange isn’t going to have the desired effect if the loudspeakers themselves lack in that department.

To me, the amp/speaker combo is a mismatch, and judging by the partial description we have of the room, the speakers aren’t the right choice. From what you’ve said, it sounds to me like either the loudspeakers are potentially too big for the room, and in turn may be producing a little too much bass, which could be swamping the midrange - or, as you’ve had to toe the speakers in so far to make them sound better (potential speaker imaging capabilities aside), the room might be quite reflective, causing a lot of reflections and this is confusing the imaging. Maybe it’s a bit of both?

Most mainstream loudspeakers are designed in anechoic chambers, hence they work better in free space, but that isn’t representative of the average living room, nor desirable placement. More relevant loudspeakers designs are those that take into account the fact they’ll be used inside a large box (a room). You tend to see less about these in the hi-fi press - whether that’s down to the fact they might not look as pretty as the likes of (insert pretty speaker brand here), or they don’t provide the web traffic of (insert insanely popular loudspeaker brand here), I don’t know. But what I do know is, they’re usually overlooked, which was why I did what I did just over five years ago. Why do some loudspeakers just sound naff at shows? Because they haven’t been designed to work in the average room, and stand no chance of sounding good in a hotel bedroom, no matter how much effort is put in.

Amplifier and speaker combinations should be auditioned together. It’s the most important match in the system, and getting that wrong negates any amount of money spent elsewhere in the system.
 

elliswils

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The Q A 3000 series speakers are known to favour bass so if that is not your thing, then the sound will not suit you. DavidF's point about matching the amp to the speaker (or the other way round) is correct. I recently fell foul of not auditioning properly and it cost me to put it right.

It does sound like the 3050i's are too big for the room. They are a great speaker as is all the 3000 range. Maybe the 3030i or even 3020i might have been a better choice.

If you have friends that can lend you their amps/speakers that might be another way of seeing what the differences are...
 

gasolin

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The 3020i according to reviews is the worst of the 3000, the 3010i has for there size good bass, the 3030i to some on whathifi is a more interesting speaker, less borring if you will than the 3050i

The 3010i that i had do to a good black friday deal, is slightly soft in the upper midrange,lower tweeter, it is also lacking a little bite in the area, this balance between the ear being most sensitive in the area,frequencys, not being unnaturally soft or to much which can give listening fatigue, is hard to achive.

How about the 3030i or 3050i with the foam plugs in to give a better balance in the bass

My mission lX 3 MK II is not overpowering in the bass, it has a nice balance between not being boomy and might not having the edm kind of bass when playing normal music, which makes them easier to place than you might think

An amp with higher damping factor should be able to control the bass better
 
The 3020i according to reviews is the worst of the 3000, the 3010i has for there size good bass, the 3030i to some on whathifi is a more interesting speaker, less borring if you will than the 3050i

The 3010i that i had do to a good black friday deal, is slightly soft in the upper midrange,lower tweeter, it is also lacking a little bite in the area, this balance between the ear being most sensitive in the area,frequencys, not being unnaturally soft or to much which can give listening fatigue, is hard to achive.

How about the 3030i or 3050i with the foam plugs in to give a better balance in the bass

My mission lX 3 MK II is not overpowering in the bass, it has a nice balance between not being boomy and might not having the edm kind of bass when playing normal music, which makes them easier to place than you might think

An amp with higher damping factor should be able to control the bass better
If you need to use foam bungs you've got the wrong speakers in the first place....
 
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gasolin

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No you don't

The 3010i might not be loud enough, the 3020i might not have enough bass but the 3030i is both having more than enough bass and power but to give the best balance in some rooms, you might wanna tune the bass a little, foam in the bass port rather than using an eq.

If you later use a bigger room, take the foam out

You don't have the wrong speakers if you have active studio monitors and use the acoustic settings on the back for a corner, close to rear wall or free air, right ?
 
No you don't

The 3010i might not be loud enough, the 3020i might not have enough bass but the 3030i is both having more than enough bass and power but to give the best balance in some rooms, you might wanna tune the bass a little, foam in the bass port rather than using an eq.

If you later use a bigger room, take the foam out

You don't have the wrong speakers if you have active studio monitors and use the acoustic settings on the back for a corner, close to rear wall or free air, right ?
Totally different concept.
 

Kutusov

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Thanks so far, guys! Oh, and happy Jubilee to the UK folks :)

@davidf you are probably right about the speakers, I though about that quite a lot. These are my first towers and I went with them because at the time the price difference between the 3030i with stands and the 3050i was almost the same. I thought bigger would be better as I listen mostly at low volumes and bigger speaker moves more air easily (don't know if I'm right but it was my though process). I grew up with a pair of big Pioneer floor standers from the 80s which had probably an 8 inch woofer and front ports. Not towers, that form factor of the Whaferdale Lintons. Had some matching Pioneer amp and a smaller room than I have now but I remember that sound as being great. I think I'm still chasing that easy, effortless sound because I had nothing "better" sounding since then.

As to auditioning speaker/amp combos, I can forget about that. I would have to take a day off to go to Porto or Lisbon and that's if they even have the gear I want to audition available... But you are right, that should be the way to go.

@leemccann1 @rainsoothe So I feed the DAC with FLAC files, 95% of my library is FLAC. The other 5% are Wav or MP3s from the first time I ripped my collection and then lent/lost the CD, s I couldn't rip it again.

So about my room... I was taking measures and here's where I'm at... IMG-0678.jpg

And to have a better reference, here's a photo from the listening chair (it was taking using the wide lens, it's closer than it looks at about 2.3/2.4m - 7.5ft

IMG_20220603_145251.jpg


Oh, another thing. I remembered yesterday why I suspected something is up with either the midrange or bass. Palying equalization, this one seems to make an important difference.

eq.jpg

I don't know how much one can trust in these things but I get the same effect through Foobar (I use Musicbee). Bass gets really tight and the sense of things not under control goes away dramatically. Bass is very well controlled by the speakers controlled and there's no boom or crazy reverb. Music was on shuffle and Prodigy's Colours came up and everything was shaking :ROFLMAO: It's too much for me

What goes away is the sense of hollowness and the midrange gets a lot quieter to the point that volume seems to get down. With a lot of Dinah Washington tracks, her voice is in front of the instruments but with the EQ, it moves back and into among them.

I don't know what to think of this... is my problem just the midrange? Because this makes me think there's no problem with the bass at all. That EQ is a bass booster and it doesn't make the problem worst on that department.
 

elliswils

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Not a great room to work with and probably part of the answer is coustic treatment...

I have two sets of hi-fi, one in an office (3m x 4m solid core filled walls) and the other in my study at home which at best is 3m x 3m. Neither are great acoustic rooms.

The office set up has 3030i with a 3070s sub (because I like bass). It is powered from a 45W Vincent hybrid valve solid state amp and like you I play mostly FLAC and MP3 files and the odd CD. Fantastic set up more than enough base and if I turn it up (I normally play volume at 25%) to say, 40% I can rattler the ceiling and window. I have never played it louder than 50% so who knows what happens beyond that...

The other set up is a Cyrus 82 DAC QXR otherwise as above but with a record deck and cassette through Spendor A7s and two ASW600 subs. Did I mention I like bass. I used to run B&Ws 685 S1s and then 706 S2s before the A7s and won't be going back to the 706s; they are not in the same ball park never mind league! The 685s I think were better than the 706s and none of the B&W 600 and 700 ranges have any bass. This set up I play at 35 to 40dB (more or less the same)

Both set ups have a different sound and feel and so for the same format and music sounds slightly different on each set up.

If I swap the speakers over between the two systems, I don't think the 3030is sound as good on the Cyrus as they do on the Vincent. The A7s sound good on both but better on the Cyrus because that system picks up and plays more of the music.

I suspect this is for many small reasons but mainly because the Cyrus amp is good enough to show any 'flaws' there may be and the Vincent is not and as such is more forgiving.

Which all comes back to listening to the amp/speaker combination and picking what sounds good to you and not what we all think or like.

Appreciate that seems to be difficult in your situation so the other thought I had was to look through whatever web sites you use, most shops sell a selection of combined hi-fi set ups for different budgets. All of those will sound good together because the dealer will have selected them to be so.

Just a thought.
 

Kutusov

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Appreciate that seems to be difficult in your situation so the other thought I had was to look through whatever web sites you use, most shops sell a selection of combined hi-fi set ups for different budgets. All of those will sound good together because the dealer will have selected them to be so.

Just a thought.
That's a good idea, actually! I was looking around and some seller has the am Io/Tannoy Revolution XF 6F combo. 90db into 8 ohms, so pretty easy to drive. Seem smaller than my Qs. Seems like I can get a pair used with warranty for about the price of some of the amps I was looking at here. Won't be able to hear them, though...

Hypothetically, would you (or anyone else) get them and replace the 3050i?
 

elliswils

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I've not listened to Tannoy speakers in forever, so am not in a position to say.

Assuming the seller is a hi-fi shop, rather than an individual, it is unlikely the shop will put together separates that don't sound good.

I will defer to those who know the speakers better than I.

Good luck and happy shopping.
 
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That's a good idea, actually! I was looking around and some seller has the am Io/Tannoy Revolution XF 6F combo. 90db into 8 ohms, so pretty easy to drive. Seem smaller than my Qs. Seems like I can get a pair used with warranty for about the price of some of the amps I was looking at here. Won't be able to hear them, though...

Hypothetically, would you (or anyone else) get them and replace the 3050i?
They are very good in my opinion but I haven't heard the 3050i.
If you can get them for a very good price then might be worth trying and you could sell on if night i your taste.
 
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rainsoothe

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Thanks so far, guys! Oh, and happy Jubilee to the UK folks :)

@davidf you are probably right about the speakers, I though about that quite a lot. These are my first towers and I went with them because at the time the price difference between the 3030i with stands and the 3050i was almost the same. I thought bigger would be better as I listen mostly at low volumes and bigger speaker moves more air easily (don't know if I'm right but it was my though process). I grew up with a pair of big Pioneer floor standers from the 80s which had probably an 8 inch woofer and front ports. Not towers, that form factor of the Whaferdale Lintons. Had some matching Pioneer amp and a smaller room than I have now but I remember that sound as being great. I think I'm still chasing that easy, effortless sound because I had nothing "better" sounding since then.

As to auditioning speaker/amp combos, I can forget about that. I would have to take a day off to go to Porto or Lisbon and that's if they even have the gear I want to audition available... But you are right, that should be the way to go.

@leemccann1 @rainsoothe So I feed the DAC with FLAC files, 95% of my library is FLAC. The other 5% are Wav or MP3s from the first time I ripped my collection and then lent/lost the CD, s I couldn't rip it again.

So about my room... I was taking measures and here's where I'm at... View attachment 3609

And to have a better reference, here's a photo from the listening chair (it was taking using the wide lens, it's closer than it looks at about 2.3/2.4m - 7.5ft

View attachment 3610


Oh, another thing. I remembered yesterday why I suspected something is up with either the midrange or bass. Palying equalization, this one seems to make an important difference.

View attachment 3611

I don't know how much one can trust in these things but I get the same effect through Foobar (I use Musicbee). Bass gets really tight and the sense of things not under control goes away dramatically. Bass is very well controlled by the speakers controlled and there's no boom or crazy reverb. Music was on shuffle and Prodigy's Colours came up and everything was shaking :ROFLMAO: It's too much for me

What goes away is the sense of hollowness and the midrange gets a lot quieter to the point that volume seems to get down. With a lot of Dinah Washington tracks, her voice is in front of the instruments but with the EQ, it moves back and into among them.

I don't know what to think of this... is my problem just the midrange? Because this makes me think there's no problem with the bass at all. That EQ is a bass booster and it doesn't make the problem worst on that department.
From what I understand, your main problem is that the sound seems "hollow" in a way, right? Lacking in midrange presence and meat on the bones.

First thing, you should try using a different source then the Ares 2, just to exclude it. So try running your laptop or smartphone directly into the Rega. Maybe you just don't like the detailed and relaxed presentation of the Ares.

If you are still unsatisfied, I'd defo start with the speakers. Amp might need changing too, but start with speakers. Your room is a bit problematic, you have tiled floors and space isn't that big, so standmounts could be a great option.

If you seek spectacular midrange, maybe you'll find a sh pair of Spendors you can afford - their midrange is magical, imo. A pair of SH Spendor A5R or Sonus Faber Toy Tower might just be your ticket. If those are too dear, look into Wharfedale 12.3. Floorstanders, however, might overload that room really fast.

For standmounts, even the Q Acoustics 3030i are worth a try, they're better balanced than the 3050i. Others to look into are Wharfedale 12.2, Mission QX2, Kef R3, Spendor A1 (if you can add a sub), Ophidian Mojo 2, Revel Performa 3 M106 (again, these last few are probably over budget, but maybe you can find some on the SH market).

The perfect standmount for you might be Quad S2, has a very well balanced and "together" sound, but also boogies very well.
 
From what I understand, your main problem is that the sound seems "hollow" in a way, right? Lacking in midrange presence and meat on the bones.

First thing, you should try using a different source then the Ares 2, just to exclude it. So try running your laptop or smartphone directly into the Rega. Maybe you just don't like the detailed and relaxed presentation of the Ares.

If you are still unsatisfied, I'd defo start with the speakers. Amp might need changing too, but start with speakers. Your room is a bit problematic, you have tiled floors and space isn't that big, so standmounts could be a great option.

If you seek spectacular midrange, maybe you'll find a sh pair of Spendors you can afford - their midrange is magical, imo. A pair of SH Spendor A5R or Sonus Faber Toy Tower might just be your ticket. If those are too dear, look into Wharfedale 12.3. Floorstanders, however, might overload that room really fast.

For standmounts, even the Q Acoustics 3030i are worth a try, they're better balanced than the 3050i. Others to look into are Wharfedale 12.2, Mission QX2, Kef R3, Spendor A1 (if you can add a sub), Ophidian Mojo 2, Revel Performa 3 M106 (again, these last few are probably over budget, but maybe you can find some on the SH market).

The perfect standmount for you might be Quad S2, has a very well balanced and "together" sound, but also boogies very well.
Quad S2 much underrated....
 

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