Are my speakers too good?

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charmerci

Are my speakers too good?
« on: 29 Dec 2015, 08:00 pm »
I've now had my Philharmonic Audio New Philharmonitors for a few weeks now.
http://philharmonicaudio.com/

There was a lot to like about them but there were things about them that I wasn't crazy about - mainly just overwhelming bass when played loudly and one "problem" that I've had over the last few years - some digital harshness that is somewhat bothersome. (Equipment being FLAC files into ODAC/ I had the Pioneer VSX-D912 http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=68889.0 / Odyssey Tempest pre-amp/AVA Synergy 240/ cables are StraightWire/Soundsilver/Kabeldirect)

After some repositioning and isolating the speakers using sorbothane feet (thanks, Dennis) they sounded better - getting rid of some bass boominess and midrange resonance. (I've got them on a floating wood floor. It's the whole house so there's not much I can do about that.) I then also bought an AVA Ultra DAC here on AC which made the midrange less harsh. (The ODAC is excellent for $100) Then I bought - fortunately cheap - a USB>DAC cable
( http://schiit.com/products/pyst-cables) to replace the cheapo one. That overall helped a little bit - especially with voices. In comparison, Janis Ian's voice -At Seventeen - seemed to be out of a box and sounded like she was singing into a microphone - which is now what I often notice, singers singing into a microphone. Even though the cable made a small final difference, it was enough for me to really like listening to the system.....except every recording sounds SO different. I have a hard time listening to most new music so almost all of what I listen to was recorded in the 50's, 60's, 70's and some into the 80's. I do have a few newer recordings though. But the funny thing is that my old stand-by super-best recordings (about 5 or 6 of them) are now not listenable at high levels. For example, Pat Metheny's Third Wind off of the Still Life (Talking) album, I used to be able to crank up but now there's a high end harshness that I can't listen to. It's like every song has an acceptable level that I can listen to loudly. Some recordings that I can listen to very loudly without harshness are Warm Ways Fleetwood Mac and Neil Diamond's Stones album.

Having listened and read and studied this audio field for decades now, I know it's good stuff but I'm kind of at my budget limit. To get better sound, I'd have to spend a lot more money. Maybe my hearing/brain is getting more sensitive as I get older? Is my system/loudspeakers now so sensitive that it transmits every distorted detail that can grate on my ears? It's kind of frustrating. Maybe I'll just have to stick with listening to music at reasonable volumes which defeats the reason for spending this kind of money on a nice system.

To sum up briefly, it's mainly the high frequency harshness (clarity?) at high levels that bothers my ear drums. (No - to sum up briefly - I'm not going to start down the vinyl road.)

I know that this room is not ideal but I can't change it - I'm using it for temporary testing purposes before it goes into my smaller office where I can occasionally turn it up to fair volumes but can't crank it up like I can here. Maybe it's just the room?


charmerci

Re: Are my speakers too good?
« Reply #1 on: 29 Dec 2015, 08:30 pm »
OK - Dennis says maybe I'm just pushing the RAAL tweeters too hard - though they aren't being pushed to ear bleeding levels by a long shot.


 :dunno:

WGH

Re: Are my speakers too good?
« Reply #2 on: 29 Dec 2015, 08:42 pm »
My RAAL's never, ever get harsh no matter what the volume.

Since it looks like you are using a laptop as your source the Audioquest Jitterbug will clean up some of the high frequency harshness.

MusicDirect has a 60-Day Money Back Guarantee.
http://www.musicdirect.com/p-333558-audioquest-jitterbug-usb-filter.aspx

Ultimately to eliminate all hardness you would need use the noisy laptop as a source/server and to move to a C.A.P.S. server with a Paul Pang USB card and linear regulated power supplies or an Auralic Aries.

charmerci

Re: Are my speakers too good?
« Reply #3 on: 29 Dec 2015, 08:46 pm »
My RAAL's never, ever get harsh no matter what the volume.

Since it looks like you are using a laptop as your source the Audioquest Jitterbug will clean up some of the high frequency harshness.

MusicDirect has a 60-Day Money Back Guarantee.
http://www.musicdirect.com/p-333558-audioquest-jitterbug-usb-filter.aspx

Ultimately to eliminate all hardness you would need use the noisy laptop as a source/server and to move to a C.A.P.S. server with a Paul Pang USB card and linear regulated power supplies or an Auralic Aries.


Hmm, OK. I'll have to look into all that - and fit it into my budget...for well into next year!

nickd

Re: Are my speakers too good?
« Reply #4 on: 29 Dec 2015, 09:06 pm »
1. My guess is that the RAAL's might be a bit too efficient in a small two way? You might consider sending them to GR research for measurements and consultation. Danny's designs usually have a very sweet detailed top end. Not all designers and end-users have the same overall tonal preferences. He will let you know if he can rework the crossover for sound more to your preferences or if they are indeed optimized and you should focus on your electronics.

2 . It's also possible that the AVA amp while being gutsy, might be clipping at louder volumes? Smaller speakers tend to like LOTS of power.


charmerci

Re: Are my speakers too good?
« Reply #5 on: 29 Dec 2015, 09:20 pm »
1. My guess is that the RAAL's might be a bit too efficient in a small two way? You might consider sending them to GR research for measurements and consultation. Danny's designs usually have a very sweet detailed top end. Not all designers and end-users have the same overall tonal preferences. He will let you know if he can rework the crossover for sound more to your preferences or if they are indeed optimized and you should focus on your electronics.

2 . It's also possible that the AVA amp while being gutsy, might be clipping at louder volumes? Smaller speakers tend to like LOTS of power.


Dennis is a well regarded crossover designer in his own right - see Salk loudspeakers or his Murphyblaster website.


I've never found AVA amps to run out of juice.


WGH above has almost the same system as mine. I'll look into his suggestions - starting with the jitterbug - first.

Folsom

Re: Are my speakers too good?
« Reply #6 on: 29 Dec 2015, 09:43 pm »
Do you have your USB power isolated? Or from another source? Do you have as much trouble with CD?

As we get older we often just can't talk ourselves into things we don't enjoy, and can now recognize.

I'm nearly 100% sure I can make your system listenable at higher volumes. PM me, please. (If you have modest DIY skills it'll be cheap too)

SoCalWJS

Re: Are my speakers too good?
« Reply #7 on: 29 Dec 2015, 10:32 pm »
My 2 cents.....

No such thing as Speakers being too good, but they might reveal shortcomings in the rest of your gear, or more likely, your room.

After going from a suspended wood floor upstairs in my old location to a concrete slab in my new house, I can readily testify to huge changes in the amount and quality of the bass.

Looking at the 1 picture you have attached, I would try to address some acoustics issues. If you have any way of doing so, at least try throwing blankets, towels, whatever, over some of the other things in the room and see if you have some reflections issues. Maybe even some area treatments (rugs) on the floor in front of the speakers. Actual room treatments would be even better.

JLM

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Re: Are my speakers too good?
« Reply #8 on: 29 Dec 2015, 11:01 pm »
IME your new speakers (especially the RAAL tweeters) would reveal the warts of far better supporting room/gear.  These appear to be truly wonderfully detailed speakers, lacking only the bottom octave(s).  You could easily justify spending $10,000 on DAC, preamp, power amp, cables, stands, and room treatments to fully support these speakers. 

Didn't find any specifications on-line.  Can you spell out the specifications of the speakers for us? 

Hard to believe they could put out "overwhelming bass" (unless you're getting frequency specific resonance in a horrible room).

DaveC113

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Re: Are my speakers too good?
« Reply #9 on: 30 Dec 2015, 12:10 am »
IME digital is fatiguing until you get into some of the higher priced DACs... the suggestion to run a server/streamer setup is a good one, check out this thread, it'll save you a ton over commercial product:

http://www.whatsbestforum.com/showthread.php?19221-Streamer-to-kill-the-big-boys-for-under-250

I'd also seriously consider an ifi micro DSD and tube buffer for your source, the DSD DAC would work well with the above streaming solution. You also might be able to find a used Sony HAP-Z1ES around, it's not cheap but it's a one-box solution.

Cables can contribute to harshness too, don't use inexpensive silver wire for cables, it'll be fatiguing. Copper is probably best for your current system. It's possible the mil-spec wire I recommended for speaker cables may not be a good match with your system right now. If so, sorry,...   :oops: It's cheap and worth trying though, the wire is useful for all sorts of DIY projects as well. Good for power cables too.

IsoAcoustics stands for your speakers would be a good idea and won't be expensive. This will clean up the bass quite a bit and keep it from rattling random stuff in your house. Way better than sorbothane.



Folsom

Re: Are my speakers too good?
« Reply #10 on: 30 Dec 2015, 12:15 am »
Do you have a wall behind your listening position? Close? Hang a throw blanket (sports team)? I did in my room, and a friend has done it too. They work better than you'd think.

Still, there's other solutions, and I don't believe you need to switch sources at all.

DaveC113

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Re: Are my speakers too good?
« Reply #11 on: 30 Dec 2015, 12:21 am »
I don't believe you need to switch sources at all.

A computer straight into a DAC is really not ideal. I'm not familiar with the AVA DAC but would highly recommend trying it vs the ifi just to see...


Rocket

Re: Are my speakers too good?
« Reply #12 on: 30 Dec 2015, 12:52 am »
Hi,

Sounds like you have  a good quality system and no weaknesses in any of the components.  One thing I've discovered is the importance of really well recorded music as your system is probably so good that it reveals all the faults in the recording. 

Try some recordings by Chesky if you can and this might help you.  I think what you are experiencing is similar to me and the SQ now depends not he quality of music you play.  Just a guess???

Cheers Rod

sebrof

Re: Are my speakers too good?
« Reply #13 on: 30 Dec 2015, 01:04 am »
Maybe it's just the room?
If that pic is indicative of the rest of the room I would not expect to get good sound in there, especially at high volume.

brj

Re: Are my speakers too good?
« Reply #14 on: 30 Dec 2015, 01:53 am »
Quote from: DaveC113
A computer straight into a DAC is really not ideal.

Why?  (Specifically, I'm wondering what assumptions underlie the statement.)

Thanks!

JerryM

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Re: Are my speakers too good?
« Reply #15 on: 30 Dec 2015, 02:01 am »
charmerci,

You state that you've had the Philharmonics for a few weeks. At this point, how many hours do you have on them?

Folsom

Re: Are my speakers too good?
« Reply #16 on: 30 Dec 2015, 02:01 am »
A computer straight into a DAC is really not ideal. I'm not familiar with the AVA DAC but would highly recommend trying it vs the ifi just to see...

That's why I was asking about separate USB power. The DAC needs some forms of isolation from the noisy computer. So I think Dave is right, but it isn't necessarily that it won't be just the two devices, but rather that some measures to reduce noise can be implemented.

Early B.

Re: Are my speakers too good?
« Reply #17 on: 30 Dec 2015, 02:01 am »
Two issues -- that laptop is a pushing a ton of crap into your gear and it's being magnified. GIGO. 

Secondly, your cables are also a weak link (pun intended). A $20 USB cable isn't gonna get it done. 

What are you using for power conditioning?


 

timind

Re: Are my speakers too good?
« Reply #18 on: 30 Dec 2015, 02:07 am »
+1 to Sebrof's comment. The room can wreak havoc on your music, especially as the volume is increased. All those high energy sound waves bouncing around and running into each other...

charmerci

Re: Are my speakers too good?
« Reply #19 on: 30 Dec 2015, 02:08 am »
No, my listening position is in the middle of the room about 10-12 feet away. As I mentioned this is a temporary place, I'm moving out in a couple of weeks but I can certainly throw some blankets around. I've been listening to various components and their sound for about 35 years now. My cables could very well be the source of the harshness.


I do understand that spending a lot more on new components can help but generally now, we're talking about 1000's of dollars that I will take years to save up at the expense of other things so....maybe?  :scratch:  I really can't spend too much money until later next year. I'm going on vacation for a month in mid-Jan then March expenses will be due and my funds will be low.


Thanks for all the suggestions, much to think about.

Do you have your USB power isolated? Or from another source? Do you have as much trouble with CD?

As we get older we often just can't talk ourselves into things we don't enjoy, and can now recognize.

I'm nearly 100% sure I can make your system listenable at higher volumes. PM me, please. (If you have modest DIY skills it'll be cheap too)




PM sent.