Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?

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deep

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Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« on: 31 May 2016, 11:53 pm »
Last February I received my SS8”’s and promptly had a bad accident. It was months before I began to pay attention to the overall sound. Gradually I became aware that I didn’t like the sound-it was harsh and bright to my ears. I listened and played things less and less.

At the time, I had Wyred4Sound’s preamp and ST 500 amp. I replaced the preamp with a Primaluna tube preamp and still found the sound to be harsh. I changed out the ST500 for an old Adcom 545 and the sound improved. I chanced across a used Parasound A21 and purchased it. Again the sound improved, but it was still harsh/hard to my ears.

Then I swapped the SS8’s with an old Dynaudio 1.8 MKII and listened only for signs of harshness or hardness. Lo and behold, the harshness was gone!

So I wrote Jim and asked for his input and he suggested a change in resistors, which would slightly depress the high mids/treble by .5 to 1 db. Since I use JRiver, I approximated the change using JRiver’s equalizer. Still no joy. It still sounded harsh/hard.

Based on my experience with the Dyn’s I don’t think my room is an issue.

Before I decide to sell my SS8’s (for a loss) and move to something else, does the community have any other thoughts as to a test/change that I have overlooked?

sfox7076

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Re: Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« Reply #1 on: 1 Jun 2016, 12:28 pm »
Harsh is never a word I have heard used with a Salk speaker.  that said, I imagine it is your dislike of a ribbon tweeter here and not the salk's per se.  Have you liked other ribbons?

Big Red Machine

Re: Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« Reply #2 on: 1 Jun 2016, 12:50 pm »
Opposite problem. I always hated dome tweeters!  :duh: I preferred the ribbons from LCY to Raal as not being shrill to my ears. Then I heard the Exotic drivers in the Exoticas and fell in love. You may have a general distaste for ribbons. It could also be the upper midrange of the ceramic driver your ears are sensitive to as well. Tape a towel over each driver to see if your ears react kindly to one of them "going away".

The 8's are "digital" and the Exoticas are "analog" in a sense. Your ears' preference could be for a different driver complement and you were not aware of your sensitivity. I'd say Klipsch would not be in your future as well!! :nono:

JRiver equalizer is not the same as knocking down the tweeter in the crossover by 0.5 db with a resistor change. If you have not tried that then you should. It can be an amazing transformation for some.

deep

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Re: Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« Reply #3 on: 1 Jun 2016, 02:17 pm »
sfox,

Yes I have listened to  other ribbons. In this case, I purchased JWebb's old monitor's and thought they were a bit on the bright side. I thought the RAAL would be significantly sweeter. When contemplating purchasing the SS8's I listened to Myron Ho's set up and didn't think the sound was hard, but the room was too small for the speakers, causing the bass to be excessive and perhaps masking harshness issue.

deep

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Re: Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« Reply #4 on: 1 Jun 2016, 02:23 pm »
Big Red,

Thanks for your thoughts. I recognize using the JRiver equalizer isn't the same as a transistor change, but I'd think it would provide some clue about how changing the transistor would help. I don't recall others saying they heard a significant change when going the transistor route. Would you provide some quotes or get them to respond to my issue?

Phil A

Re: Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« Reply #5 on: 1 Jun 2016, 02:25 pm »
Is the room treated at all?

kingdeezie

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Re: Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« Reply #6 on: 1 Jun 2016, 02:41 pm »
Deep,

Welcome to AC.  :thumb:

Contrary to a lot of popular belief you see posted around the internet, IMO, once you reach the level of something like a SS8 (direct priced at 8-9K, if sold at retail 15-20K), your system needs to be run like a highly precise, tight tolerance, well oiled machine. Said another way, the adage that speakers are "some large percent of the sound you hear," becomes less truthful. A well designed transducer, should transduce, and add minimal of its own signature to the sound. It will sound like, what it is being fed.

Given that the SS8's, and many other designs on its level, are so revealing, something wrong in the chain is going to be horrendously notable.

I am experiencing something similar with my Exotica 3s, when I use my PC as a transport. The sound falls apart, and becomes thin, harsh, and muffled. A stark contrast to using another transport, with the same DAC.

All things become evident with enough clarity. Noise, EMF, RFI, distortion, etc, etc, can ruin your sound.

My point is, the issue might not be your speakers, so much as something else in the chain.

Yes, you might like the Dynaudio better, but its a significantly less revealing speaker. The solution to your problem might not best be solved by "covering" up a problem potentially caused by something else.

Room treatments, power conditioning, more careful equipment synergy, different sources, cabling, tweaks like footers, etc, etc, can all help inch your closer to a more desirable sound.

Hardness and harshness to me sounds like two potential issues if I had to guess.

1, is acoustic issues. Do you have treatments at first reflection points? If not, try blankets and see if the condition improves. If so, consider some GIK panels for reasonable pricing. They also sell Art panels if WAF is an issue.

2, is a power issue. In my house, without power conditioning, the sound is atrocious. Thin, hard, unfocused. Even my Merrill monoblocks sound better into my power conditioner. Check PI audio. Magikbuss is a cost effective reasonable first step.

If you already are employing these strategies, then something else is a miss. Perhaps your transport/source, or cabling.

Any movement towards a speaker that functions on the same level as the SS8, will only likely reveal the same issues, since I would think its something else in your system.

What is the rest of your system?

Good luck. Don't be afraid to experiment. There are cheap options to try first, before you dive in with both feet. 


avahifi

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Re: Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« Reply #7 on: 1 Jun 2016, 03:32 pm »
We have used Soundscape 8s, (and 10s, and 12s too) at trade shows with Jim Salk for the past several years and have always been very happy with the results.

This year, at Axpona, we had our new DVA 850 mono amps driving SS8s and the sound was great, not a trace of edge or grain or excess brightness.

I doubt very much if the speakers themselves are your problem.  Note that we were using standard Bluejeans cables and no power conditioning at all aside from our little HumDinger.

What preamplifier are you using?  A really high quality vacuum tube preamplifier could make all the difference.

Frank Van Alstine

undertow

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Re: Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« Reply #8 on: 1 Jun 2016, 03:46 pm »
Honestly seeing some internals of Salk speakers generally they use very generic Solen Fast Cap "capacitors"... These French caps always highlighted and made frequencies sound artificial to some degree...

Before dumping them I would suggest a little crossover work. A good cheap alternative is to replace all the Solens if that is what is in there with at least Mundorf EVO caps. Much better and smoother.

Also a MUCH better amp will help. Adcom, or Wyred for sound Class D are both literally at the lower end of "Hifi" in my opinion. They have no tone, no harmonic body, and just don't smooth out that well, have a "Peaky" sorta sound.

I would suggest if you want a warmer Solid state sound without going to all tubes try a Mcintosh amp (With Autoformers), or Conrad Johnson for sure these can get rather pricey, but they will also drive midbass warming up the speaker a lot more which is where you need it.

Also, Salk does use very good off the shelf audio drivers that can be contoured very well. They are equal to or better than the drivers your dynaudios have, but need crossover work which will make all the difference. I have heard night and day transformations putting the right caps in a speaker, and I am pretty sure Salk even offers to build with whatever caps up front, but it costs more. It could save you from throwing away 50% of the cost on trying to dump them used. Realistically most speakers in the your run of the mill 2 way or 3 way designs netting about 88 db efficiency out there are going to be similar to the build, and materials Salk uses anyway so I would try to make them work before spending a lot more, or losing money.

Good Luck
« Last Edit: 2 Jun 2016, 01:23 pm by undertow »

richidoo

Re: Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« Reply #9 on: 1 Jun 2016, 03:52 pm »
Tilt it down more. Make a JRiver filter that starts at 1kHz and goes straight line down to -6dB at 20kHz. Then experiment changing the amount of tilt (change the -6dB value.) This kind of dsp tilt filter is the exactly same as reducing the tweeter's parallel resistor. Google 'B&K curve' to learn about commonly preferred EQ curves. 

+1 King Deezie     The dynaudios could sound "better" only because their lower resolution hides the real source of harshness, like jitter, or electrolytic coupling caps. What's your sound card/audiointerface/DAC from the computer?

Tilting down the tweeter can reduce the sensitivity to lesser gears' flaws while preserving enough detail to fully enjoy the music.

audioguy213

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Re: Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« Reply #10 on: 1 Jun 2016, 04:03 pm »
While these suggestions (AC, ancillary components, room treatments, EQing or speaker placement) are all very good ideas...

I want to express a different opinion.  If a speaker costs you 8k, you should like how it sounds.  And you should not have to spend years and megabucks pairing up things for it to make it sound acceptable to your ears.

I would think the best suggestion would come from Salk himself- he wants you to be happy with his speakers in your home.  Perhaps he can give you a few extra tweaks to try, or if they dont work perhaps he can swap a different speaker line with you to try that has domes instead of ribbons.


undertow

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Re: Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« Reply #11 on: 1 Jun 2016, 04:07 pm »
While these suggestions (AC, ancillary components, room treatments, EQing or speaker placement) are all very good ideas...

I want to express a different opinion.  If a speaker costs you 8k, you should like how it sounds.  And you should not have to spend years and megabucks pairing up things for it to make it sound acceptable to your ears.

I would think the best suggestion would come from Salk himself- he wants you to be happy with his speakers in your home.  Perhaps he can give you a few extra tweaks to try, or if they don't work perhaps he can swap a different speaker line with you to try that has domes instead of ribbons.

I agree to some degree... However, unfortunately even at an 8 k speaker there are compromises, and truth is he is also trying to drive them with a system using some 500 dollar components.

Some small tweaks can help, but they will not change the overall presentation if its that far off. Room acoustics are 40% of the sound in any system, and most people won't be turning their living room into a near perfect acoustic environment spending 10,000 more. So you can get some small changes from cables, power conditioning etc... However, in this case the right amplification, and probably a Crossover upgrade will bring them to where they need to be much simpler, and cheaper than anything else.
« Last Edit: 2 Jun 2016, 01:23 pm by undertow »

JonnyFive

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Re: Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« Reply #12 on: 1 Jun 2016, 05:29 pm »
I owned the SS8s for about a year, using them a Marantz AV8801 and Parasound A21 (and Mundorf upgrades to the crossover).  I found them to be too revealing of my poor recordings and modest equipment.  I now have the Exotica 3s with a soft mid and soft dome tweeter and I love them wholeheartedly. 

charmerci

Re: Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« Reply #13 on: 1 Jun 2016, 06:43 pm »
In my personal experience, it's the RAAL tweeters, they reveal everything. It's sensitive to what comes down the line.


Plus, maybe you like me are a bit more sensitive to the higher frequencies.

Early B.

Re: Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« Reply #14 on: 1 Jun 2016, 10:16 pm »
Post a pic of your setup. I'll bet you $100 that placement is 90% of your problem.

Folsom

Re: Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« Reply #15 on: 1 Jun 2016, 10:17 pm »
It's not the speakers. You've got dirty power. The not-harsh sounding stuff you have is dull so it balances out when electronics sound harsh from bad power.

JLM

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Re: Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« Reply #16 on: 2 Jun 2016, 10:22 am »
1.)  Yes talk to Salk again, he's a nice guy.  I use EQ/DSP but don't believe adjusting the frequency response is the answer (in this case it'd be like putting a governor on a Ferrari).  The Dynaudio's are very good speakers, maybe not as good, but mainly just different than yours.  Just maybe something is really wrong with the Salks (but both of them)?

2.)  After 40 years at this my goal is enjoyment, rather than ruthlessly revealing (which can be a real hoot initially but gets old/fatiguing).  You can run into the old paradox of having a decent system that you can use to enjoy all your music (music lover made very happy) or a super system that only makes a handful of recordings listenable (the driven, sad, never satisfied audiophile).

3.)  The Raals are extremely revealing (my first impression was that they were startling), your power amps are mediocre at best.  I owned a Prima Luna integrated for 8 months (2015 Stereophile class A rated) but was barely better than my old solid state gear.  I'm a "speaker first" kind of guy but cheap gear in front of Raal's is a bad combination.  If the SS8's are $15k speakers the old rule of thumb would be to spend roughly $25k on the rest of your system.


Power aberrations are local (that you may or may not have).  Is your wiring/appliances ancient, is your substation/area wiring performing well, or do you share the substation with industrial users?  I've heard the affects of power aberrations, but barely at home (even in a 50 year old house with a rats nest of wiring/rewiring) or running off a portable generator (the expensive microwave wouldn't run at all).

Yes 99% of all systems are over qualified compared to the room/setup where they're being used and as said the room is a big factor in the overall sound.  The best part of my system might be my dedicated room.  But your complaints don't jive with room/setup effects.  The SS8's deserve/need a big room of decent proportions.

Yes capacitors can make a difference.  Swapped out a $2 cap for a $60 cap on my $20 tweeters just for giggles recently and it made a noticeable difference, but not one I'd call earth shattering. 

No I've never found much if any help from tweaks, even between properly designed cables.  What are all those reviewers drinking?

Stercom

Re: Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« Reply #17 on: 2 Jun 2016, 10:54 am »
Might as well add my 2 cents. Make sure the speakers are thoroughly broken-in. I recently purchased a 10 year old pair of Von Schweikert VR-7 HSE that sounded fairly hard/edgy on the top end. I used a burn-in disc on them for over 100 hours and the transformation was a little shocking. I also owned a pair of Philharmonic 3s (similar to your Salk SS8s) and they needed to be run for awhile before they calmed down. I know some people don't believe in burn-in so maybe this is just a placebo effect - but I don't think so.

Rocket

Re: Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« Reply #18 on: 2 Jun 2016, 01:02 pm »
Hi,

Can you provide us with a description of the rest of your system if possible?  Also some photos would help as well.

What types of recordings are you using?  Anything less than well recorded or audiophile standard will sound compressed and harsh through those speakers.  For example, I only have Salk Sound HT3's and the rest of my system is of a pretty good standard.  Ever time I try to listen to compressed recordings I experience what you describe.

Poor quality speakers will mask the issues occurring in your system.

Cheers Rod

sts9fan

Re: Are SS8’s the wrong speaker for me?
« Reply #19 on: 2 Jun 2016, 01:11 pm »
There is a good chance he just does not like these speakers.  This can happen!  I also dont care too much for ribbon tweets.   Everyone always looks to the other stuff as the isse. Power, treatmnets, electronics etc.  The simplest and most likely cause is the actual speaker.