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Wow factor fading – now looking to upgrade


Boston Chris
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I’m a tube and Klipsch guy looking to upgrade. I’m tempted by Cornwall IV, but their size is probably prohibitive (I’m married 😊). Maybe a tube preamp, or a tube DAC, or roll tubes in integrated amplifier…? How to identify the weakest link? Thanks in advance!

 

Equipment: Qobuz to ethernet PC Notebook with Audirvana or ethernet Blusound Node (2021) network streamer to Cambridge DacMagic 100 to Schiit Loki Mini+ EQ to Line Magnetic 210-IA 300B SET integrated amplifier to Klipsch Heresy III + Klipsch R-10SW.

 

Music: 1920-1980 Jazz: Armstrong, be-bop, 1960-80 avant garde jazz. 1950-1980 rock: Classic rock, Zappa, Beefheart, punk, post-punk. Opera: Wagner, Puccini, R, Strauss Janacek, Bartok. Symphonic: Stravinsky, Bartok, Mahler, Dvorak. 1950-1980 Afro-beat, Jamaican, Brazilian

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Dave A's suggestion of upgrading to Heresy IVs is a good one. I was going to suggest moving up to Forte's, used or new, or find a used pair of Quartets or Choruses as their size is not that of Cornwalls.

 

But I also agree with veloceleste (do you own a Bianchi, by chance?)- you haven't identified what you don't like about your current setup. Is it you just have money burning a hole in your pocket?

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Yes, thank you - good points. I should be more specific.

 

Music from quartets (e.g. jazz) is very good - great transparency, good instrumental separation.

Vocals from the opera are great, but the orchestral instrumental separation from there and from symphonic music is not tremendous.

 

I read this was a bit of the pluses (great transparency, tremendous midrange) and minuses (not tremendous instrumental separation in orchestral music) of

low watt SET amplification, and joked with British Audiophile about explaining to my wife why I needed both an SET and a separate push-pull amplifier 🙂.

 

@Peter P : I happen to ride an entry level Bianchi (Iseo), but I think you were asking @veloceleste 🙂?

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It’s a common affliction - more than wow factor fading - a classic case of upgradeitis. And unfortunately your next move to H4’s or Forte, CW etc. will not cure what you got. A stop gap, yes. A cure, no. Upgradeitis generally shrugs any and all attempts at vaccination so buckle in. The journey to nirvana is a long and expensive road - enjoy the scenery -  

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Sadly SET amps get a bad rap because 90% or more on the market are not really designed well. They do great with simple music but loose coherence with complex music plus it probably isn't controlling the Heresy woofer all that great.

 

I don't think a Cornwall or any speaker with a normal cone woofer like the heresy will pair well with your SET amp. So you either need to get something like a LaScala with a horn woofer with less mass to have to control, these pair well with your average SET amplifiers. Or, you need to find a different SET amplifier with lower output impedance and possibly one that does A2 operation. People do not realize how much they go into clipping region even if it's for short transient duration the effect will be poor imaging and sound stage since blocking distortion and bias shift throws the amplifier into a tail spin until it recovers.

 

fwiw I am in the Boston area and if your wife gives the green light I have a nice pair of LaScalas that I have been toying around with the idea of selling. I am actually in the same boat with trying to convince the wife to swap the Klipsch reference floor stands in the living room to the LaScalas so we can keep them but she hates the look of them, the reference floor stands have a more contemporary look and are smaller so she is ok with them.

 

You could possibly modify your current amplifier to work better with the Heresy but you need to bring it to more an engineer vs a repair tech, I have done this for people with the same problem. All that is needed was a few resistors and maybe 1 or 2 capacitors, last one went from a damping factor of 5 to a DF of 100 that made a huge improvement.

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2 hours ago, richieb said:

It’s a common affliction - more than wow factor fading - a classic case of upgradeitis. And unfortunately your next move to H4’s or Forte, CW etc. will not cure what you got. A stop gap, yes. A cure, no. Upgradeitis generally shrugs any and all attempts at vaccination so buckle in. The journey to nirvana is a long and expensive road - enjoy the scenery -  

Well he did say WAF counted but yes, as you say, upgraditis strikes many of us. I ended up with pro gear and eventually a set of MCM 1900's because they take the same notes and give them life and authority smaller speakers can never achieve. Went through a ton of stuff before I made the Super MWM's because I had certain goals. Mainly I wanted to sit next to the 32' organ pipes for real and not just a wimpy imitation of them. I never heard the Heresy 4's but I did hear the CW 4's and I figure for a small box it will be as good as you can get. I have built two Super Heresy's and people always thought it was the big speakers playing when they came here to hear them.

 

  I have my big speakers in the shop where I get no complaints about size or volume and spend a fair amount of time out there. My wife is welcome to have her house without the big old speakers but then if she wants to spend time with me she often will find me in the shop where the music is and not the house where Fakebook is.

 

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I bought my 'dream', a Leben Hifi CS300 tube Amp in January of this year, and together with my iFi Zen Phono, and my 1972 Heresy speakers, it is my 'reference system'. The thing about it is that the system 'disappears', and what is left is the music and that is where, imho lies the 'wow'. 

In the past months, I have paid regular visits to the local thriftstore, where I find, from time to time, great vinyl records, most of them for 1.5 euro. All these micro investments have resulted in great wow moments for me and have broadened my scope. 

Oh, one more thing, I still read gear review, but I skip all the tech and marketing babble and I go straight to the part where they write about the music they listened to with the reviewed gear. 

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17 hours ago, Peter P. said:

Dave A's suggestion of upgrading to Heresy IVs is a good one. I was going to suggest moving up to Forte's, used or new, or find a used pair of Quartets or Choruses as their size is not that of Cornwalls.

 

But I also agree with veloceleste (do you own a Bianchi, by chance?)- you haven't identified what you don't like about your current setup. Is it you just have money burning a hole in your pocket?

Yes to the Bianchis! First one was a Veloce that was Bianchi’s signature color, celeste. The two words combined so nicely into one I decided to create that as my handle. My second Bianchi, which I just sold this past summer was a fantastic Freccia Celeste, which at the time was Bianchi’s top frame, the EV3. I’m down to two bikes now, an all-roads bike and a folding bike. I don’t ride as much as I used to and now the most important part of my ride is where do we stop to eat! Back to audio now…..

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Many thanks for these comments, which have helped focus my thoughts.

 

After assembling this system this spring, listening to jazz and rock has been and continues to be a delight. The midrange, transparency, and separation in these e.g. quartets are glorious.

 

As the symphonic season started this fall, now listening to orchestral music, I hear the instrumental separation decrease when there are a larger number of simultaneous instruments.

 

So “wow factor” reduction is realizing instrumental resolution/color not as good as number of simultaneous instruments increases – as @captainbeefheart discussed.

 

Maybe I’m expecting too much…? Please keep thoughts coming!

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OP:  I’ll offer a different perspective.


Your hi-fi system will never sound better than the recordings.  I suggest that you consider state-of-the-art recordings.


For classical music I prefer modern performances/recordings (i.e., performances recorded in the last dozen years or so) that were captured and mastered in multi-channel hi-res digital (e.g., 24bit/192kHz PCM, or DSD), and delivered on a disc featuring DTS-HD MA 5.1 (e.g., Blu-ray, Pure Audio Blu-ray, Ultra HD Blu-ray), or an SACD disc that features multi-channel DSD.

  
Here’s one of my posts that provides examples of modern hi-res classical recordings:  

 

https://community.klipsch.com/index.php?/topic/202102-classical-recordings/&do=findComment&comment=2658804


For classical music, I enjoy RF-7 II driven by tube amps, and augmented by large subwoofers.  I suggest that you consider the newer RF-7 III for a speaker capable of delivering large-scale orchestral music, while occupying a relatively small footprint.

 

I also suggest that you consider multi-channel.  If you’re interested, I can explain my 4.1 configurations that employ tube amps (i.e., no AVR or pre-processor).
 

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7 hours ago, Boston Chris said:

Many thanks for these comments, which have helped focus my thoughts.

 

After assembling this system this spring, listening to jazz and rock has been and continues to be a delight. The midrange, transparency, and separation in these e.g. quartets are glorious.

 

As the symphonic season started this fall, now listening to orchestral music, I hear the instrumental separation decrease when there are a larger number of simultaneous instruments.

 

So “wow factor” reduction is realizing instrumental resolution/color not as good as number of simultaneous instruments increases – as @captainbeefheart discussed.

 

Maybe I’m expecting too much…? Please keep thoughts coming!

 

Here’s my thoughts about whether single-ended tube amps are “up to the job”:  https://community.klipsch.com/index.php?/topic/193845-why-flea-power-is-often-enough/&do=findComment&comment=2529684

 

Regarding imaging, IME when I’m seated mid-hall in the symphony hall, there is no localization of instruments.   Rather, the sound from the orchestra is blended by the hall.  Therefore, “localization” is not a criterion for me when assessing the sound quality of my hi-fi systems.   I care about reproducing the natural timbre of orchestral instruments, and reproducing the full dynamic range and frequency range of large-scale classical music.

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1 hour ago, Boston Chris said:

@robert_kc

 

You’re right – I should be more specific (again 😊)

 

The lack of instrumental separation I’m complaining about is not in 3D xyz space, but in overtone spectrum space (i.e. instrumental timber)

Many thanks for the link – I will read carefully. Cheers!

 

OP:

 
Do you attend live performances of large-scale classical music performed in a world-class symphony hall where there is no use of a sound reinforcement system?   The reason I’m asking is that I’m curious if you’ve experienced the incredible power of a large orchestra when performing in a purpose-built hall.


If you are familiar with the potential power of large-scale classical music, is it your goal to come as close as possible to recreating this concert hall experience in your home?  Or, is your goal for your in-home experience to be a “small-scale simulacrum” of the live music (i.e., pleasant sounding, but not reproducing the full dynamic range, or deep bass)?


FWIW/IMO – the most important first step is to define your goals for your hi-fi system.  Only then can you make an informed decision about the equipment required.
 

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1 hour ago, Shakeydeal said:

Dacmagic and streaming from a computer are two weak links I see. Better DAC and dedicated streamer or a DDC of some kind as a bridge will reap huge benefits.

 

Shakey

 

My advice for anyone who wants the best audio quality for recorded music, is that they first focus on what types of recordings are available for the music they like.   Only then can they make an informed decision about a hi-fi system that supports the best quality recordings that are available for the genres they’re interested in.  

 

Garbage-in/garbage-out – a hi-fi system will never sound better than the recordings.

 

The technology of recorded music has come a long way since LPs and CDs.

 

The genre(s) of music determines which of the following formats are relevant:

  • CD (Stereo-only.   No multi-channel (e.g., 5.1) capability.) 
  • DVD (stereo and 5.1)
  • DVD-Audio (stereo and 5.1)
  • SACD (stereo and 5.1)
  • Blu-ray (DTS-HD MA 5.1, plus stereo track, and sometimes additional audio tracks)
  • Pure Audio Blu-ray (DTS-HD MA 5.1, plus stereo track, and sometimes additional audio tracks)
  • Ultra HD Blu-ray (DTS-HD MA 5.1, plus stereo track, and sometimes additional audio tracks)
  • Hi-res downloads - 24bit/192kHz PCM (IME, stereo), and hi-res DSD (stereo and 5.1)

For classical music I prefer modern performances/recordings (i.e., performances recorded in the last dozen years or so) that were captured and mastered in multi-channel hi-res digital (e.g., 24bit/192kHz PCM, or DSD), and delivered on a disc featuring DTS-HD MA 5.1 (e.g., Blu-ray, Pure Audio Blu-ray, Ultra HD Blu-ray), or an SACD disc that features multi-channel DSD.

  
Following are just a few examples of resources for hi-res recordings.  (FWIW, I often buy Blu-ray and SACD discs from amazon.) 

My advice is to first shop for recordings – and then build a system that supports the recordings you want.

 

Another decision is whether you’re satisfied with stereo, or want multi-channel.   (There are many modern hi-res multi-channel classical recordings available, and IMO/IME such recordings excel at recreating the live concert hall experience.)

 

Some DACs are connected via coax or TOSLINK, which are not capable of uncompromised hi-res playback, or multi-channel playback.   Uncompromised playback of hi-res multi-channel requires DACs built into a universal player, or an HDMI connected DAC (or AVR).

 
Another possible solution is to stream music from a computer (or NAS) across a high-speed network (ethernet or wi-fi).   (I have no experience with this, so I can’t attest to this.)    The problem is copying SACDs and Blu-rays to a computer, which is not straightforward.  (Copying the SACD layer (vs. CD layer) of a hybrid SACD disc requires arcane “hacking” procedures.)


Bottom line:  I recommend that an audiophile proceeds carefully when assessing whether an external DAC meets their needs.

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