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Thread: Macca's Lash Up 2: Lash Harder

  1. #1281
    Join Date: Aug 2009

    Location: Staffordshire, England

    Posts: 30,947
    I'm Martin.

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    As far as soundstage goes I can never get past hearing the Linkwitz LX521 https://www.linkwitz.com/lx521/

    No other speaker I have heard has even come close to that for soundstaging. (it excelled in pretty much everything else too).

    I like a good soundstage but it isn't a priority for me. I often don't even listen from the 'sweet spot.' The advantage of having the speakers a long distance away is lack of early reflections, which helps.

    If the recording has a good soundstage mixed in, or if it is a simple live recording of, say, acoustic jazz, then I get acceptable results. The instruments have all 3 dimensions replicated.

    I'd like the speakers further apart which would also help, but just not physically possible. I think the speakers and room are really the two limiters on what is ultimately possible from digital. The DAC and source are pretty much sideshows by comparison and good/good enough amplifiers are no longer expensive. But really good speakers and really good rooms are.
    Current Lash Up:

    *Audiolab 6000CDT* Topping E30 * Philips 22AH380 pre-amp * NAD C320BEE power amp * JM Lab Electra 926 *

  2. #1282
    Join Date: May 2018

    Location: Woking

    Posts: 667
    I'm Chris.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Macca View Post
    As far as soundstage goes I can never get past hearing the Linkwitz LX521 https://www.linkwitz.com/lx521/

    No other speaker I have heard has even come close to that for soundstaging. (it excelled in pretty much everything else too).

    I like a good soundstage but it isn't a priority for me. I often don't even listen from the 'sweet spot.' The advantage of having the speakers a long distance away is lack of early reflections, which helps.

    If the recording has a good soundstage mixed in, or if it is a simple live recording of, say, acoustic jazz, then I get acceptable results. The instruments have all 3 dimensions replicated.

    I'd like the speakers further apart which would also help, but just not physically possible. I think the speakers and room are really the two limiters on what is ultimately possible from digital. The DAC and source are pretty much sideshows by comparison and good/good enough amplifiers are no longer expensive. But really good speakers and really good rooms are.
    Agree Martin, the rest of the supporting cast (DAC, source, amplifier to an extent) can now be had for relative low cost, case and point your E30 and NAD amplifier. But the speakers and especially the room, play by far the biggest role in things actually sounding good. The difference between my system sounding decent and genuinely spectacular is about 2 inches. To the rear wall and to a lesser extent the side wall, the instrument placement, width/depth of soundstage and actually the whole frequency response (at the listening position) are massively affected by small adjustments.

    I've had to change my speakers from a setup in a different room (house) which previously sounded very good because of how the speakers interacted with the shape and size of that room, in my current one they sounded like crap.

    It's been a challenge to get the sweet spot at the listening position. Move around the room and there is awful bass 'suck out' in the middle and indeed huge bloat in the corners. Some rooms are just more sympathetically shaped then others.
    I've got a fair amount of treatment in the appropriate places as well as a pair of subs accurately crossed and in phase with the room. I do have digital EQ if I want to incorporate it but don't feel its necessary.

    Your space looks like a pure candidate for a pair of Quads (close to sidewalls firing down a long corridor type space with plenty of room in front and behind). I do really like your current speakers though.
    System 1: - Amp - Musical Paradise MP-701 - Neurochrome 686
    - Source: Linn LP12 (AT-OC9XEN) - D-Klimo LAR copy - Novafidelity X12 - Soncoz SGD1 -
    - Speakers: Cambridge Acoustic "Grand Master Evolution" - (Quads are in repair!) Subs: - REL T3's -

    System 2 - Amp: Musical Paradise MP 303 - Custom Pre -
    - Source: Audio Technica LP5 - EAR834p clone - Pioneer N-30K - Topping E30 -
    - Speakers: Loth X BS1's - Sub: REL T3 -

  3. #1283
    Join Date: Aug 2009

    Location: Staffordshire, England

    Posts: 30,947
    I'm Martin.

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    Hi Chris

    yes, having moved many times and learned the hard way how much difference the room makes and what potential pit-falls (bouncy suspended floors) can be encountered I tried to get it as right as possible when I bought a house. I think I did about as well as I could given I had no money at the time.

    The room would be ideal for ESLs, open baffles or something similar. Trouble is although I admire greatly what they do right, overall they are not my cup of tea.
    Current Lash Up:

    *Audiolab 6000CDT* Topping E30 * Philips 22AH380 pre-amp * NAD C320BEE power amp * JM Lab Electra 926 *

  4. #1284
    Join Date: May 2018

    Location: Woking

    Posts: 667
    I'm Chris.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Macca View Post

    The room would be ideal for ESLs, open baffles or something similar. Trouble is although I admire greatly what they do right, overall they are not my cup of tea.
    I totally get that. They're certainly not for everybody I concede. However, I would add if you're willing to put in the time for exact placement of speakers and tactical arrangement of furniture (verging on interfering with daily life around the room) as well as the integration of 'fast' subwoofers, their various shortcomings can be addressed if not nullified.

    Your listening outside the sweet-spot habit might be the final nail in the coffin for them though, they just don't sound great at many points of the room. The 63's (and newer models) do a better job of dispersing the sound and have slightly less 'beaming' but some say (myself included) that none have ever replicated the absolute inner transparency of the 57's (original ESL's).

    Logan's or Maggie's could also do well in your room (especially with the Krell) but if you're happy no need to fix what ain't broke.

    Incidentally I have a pair of 57's (one with low output) and 63's (one not powering on) currently acting as sound absorption in the room, they do a fine job of it actually! So the maintenance and potential for constant repairs (at least in my experience) is another reason to pass on them I would say. Me, I'm in too deep and have heard them at their best so I unfortunately, can't 'unhear' them. I wish I could as it would make my bank account a lot healthier and my girlfriend a lot happier . . . .

    QUAD - garnering unhealthy amounts of procrastination from weirdo's for nearly 70 years . . . .
    System 1: - Amp - Musical Paradise MP-701 - Neurochrome 686
    - Source: Linn LP12 (AT-OC9XEN) - D-Klimo LAR copy - Novafidelity X12 - Soncoz SGD1 -
    - Speakers: Cambridge Acoustic "Grand Master Evolution" - (Quads are in repair!) Subs: - REL T3's -

    System 2 - Amp: Musical Paradise MP 303 - Custom Pre -
    - Source: Audio Technica LP5 - EAR834p clone - Pioneer N-30K - Topping E30 -
    - Speakers: Loth X BS1's - Sub: REL T3 -

  5. #1285
    Join Date: Aug 2009

    Location: Staffordshire, England

    Posts: 30,947
    I'm Martin.

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    LOL Yes, speakers are the most personal bit.

    I have Tannoy Ardens arriving at some point, not planning on getting anymore of the bloody things after that. Already got too many.
    Current Lash Up:

    *Audiolab 6000CDT* Topping E30 * Philips 22AH380 pre-amp * NAD C320BEE power amp * JM Lab Electra 926 *

  6. #1286
    Join Date: Aug 2009

    Location: Staffordshire, England

    Posts: 30,947
    I'm Martin.

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    Thought I'd have another go at bypassing the pre-amp stage on the NAD 320BEE since its measured performance is quite a bit poorer than the power amp section.

    I did try direct to power amp previously with the Soncoz DAC but got some low level hum through the speakers so must be some sort of ground loop.

    Deployed this Philips 22AH280 'Black Tulip' pre-amp and works fine, no hum at all. Also seems to be a small step up in sound quality vs the built in pre on the NAD. Not quite as full-on but slightly more 'open' too.

    The Philips isn't quite stock as Alan Firebottle did something to it although I can't recall what now. I do like the look of it though, it's what hifi equipment should look like.

    Current Lash Up:

    *Audiolab 6000CDT* Topping E30 * Philips 22AH380 pre-amp * NAD C320BEE power amp * JM Lab Electra 926 *

  7. #1287
    Join Date: Nov 2018

    Location: Grimsby

    Posts: 385
    I'm David.

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    Didn't you have a buffer, would that act as the pre?

  8. #1288
    Join Date: Aug 2009

    Location: Staffordshire, England

    Posts: 30,947
    I'm Martin.

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    yes, I have a DCB1 but with some power amps it produces a hum in one channel. All my power amps in fact except for the two Krells.

    I don't know why it will only work with the Krells, some sort of union rules or something. It doesn't make sense but then nothing about my world ever does.
    Current Lash Up:

    *Audiolab 6000CDT* Topping E30 * Philips 22AH380 pre-amp * NAD C320BEE power amp * JM Lab Electra 926 *

  9. #1289
    Join Date: Aug 2009

    Location: Staffordshire, England

    Posts: 30,947
    I'm Martin.

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    Had Ollie (aka Big Bottle Audio) come over this morning. He brought me a Krell he had secured for me from somewhere in Welsh Wales. He also brought along his Neurochrome 686 power amp, his BT 2 pre-amp and Soekris DAC so we had a bit of a bake-off.

    First up we had a listen to the system already set up to get some sort of baseline. This was Audiolab 6000 CD transport, into Topping E30 DAC into a Philips 22AH380 pre, the power section of a NADC320BEE and the JM Lab Electra 926 speakers. We listened to the first couple of tunes from the Isaac Hayes 'Shaft' soundtrack album, for no other reason than it was already in the player.

    This set up gives a clean, sweet sound that you could listen to for hours since it doesn't do anything wrong or annoying, and the sound is free of the speakers, but at the same time whilst it sounds good there's not many 'wow' moments to be had. The NAD power amp has very good signal to noise but its little frame transformer means there is a limit to what it can do in terms of dynamics and the grip in the bass. For a hundred quid off of eBay you really can't go wrong if you need a cheap but good power amp, but it's no powerhouse.

    So we decided to swap out the amplification first and put in the BT2 and Neurochrome 686 in place of the Philips/NAD combo. I didn't take a pic of the BT2 as it is just a black box with a stepped pot and a heavy duty on-off switch. The Neurochrome is not blinged up either. It's quite compact and at a guess weighs in about 15 kilos:



    We had another listen to Shaft. It was pretty clear there was a lot more power on tap as even at high spl there was no stress on the dynamic peaks and studio ambience around the acoustic instruments was more obvious. The sound was not 'cut' or 'etched' in any way, neither was there any colouration being added, a very neutral presentation, you couldn't really 'hear' the amplifiers at all.

    This, then, was an ideal set-up for the DAC bake-off to follow.

    Ollie wanted to swap in the Soekris DAC to compare to the Topping E30 but I wanted another reference first so we had a listen to the traditional hi-fi demo track 'Private Investigations' from the Sony SBM CD version. It's become something of a cliché but it is a good test track as you've got big dynamic swings, acoustic instruments and sound effects. This was also well presented, powerful and controlled, but it did show up some very slight glassines on the heavily struck piano chords.

    I asked Ollie if he thought that was the DAC or the amp, he says 'It's the DAC mate.'

    Okay. So we swap the Topping E30 out for the Soekris DAC. This is not standard as Ollie has taken out the switch mode power supplies and replaced them with linear supplies that sit in a separate case and are connected to the DAC via umbilical. Here's the Soekris ready to go:



    We listen to Private Investigations again. I was especially listening out for the glassiness on the piano hits but it just wasn't there now. Although I thought it was pretty subtle the whole sound was just more natural, more real. We listened to a few of the tracks from Shaft again, again I had the same perception. Ollie reckoned it was a big and obvious difference compared to the Topping but I did not agree. It was subtle, but noticeable.

    In addition to the piano chords on 'Private Investigations' there was a xylophone on track 3 of Shaft that also seemed to sound more 'real' with the Soekris. More body to the instrument and more realistic decay of the sound of the keys. Again this was slight but noticeable.

    Next we swapped DACs again, replacing the Soekris with the Soncoz SGD1. Unlike the Soekris this DAC comes with two linear power supplies built in and is highly reagrded. Like the Soekris, the Soncoz did not impart that slight glassiness to the piano chords, but at the same time it did not sound as 'real' as the Soekris.

    It was a bit like switching from listening to a good turntable to listening to the same song on FM on a good tuner. The same song, it's all there, yet something almost undefinable has changed.

    Still with the Soncoz in play we had a listen to the last couple of tunes from 'We Get Requests' by Oscar Peterson Trio'. This sounded good. We then swapped the Soekris back in and played the same tracks again. Now I could not really hear any change, but Ollie reckoned it was a big difference. We then listened to 'The Last Time I Saw Richard' from Joni Mitchell's 'Blue' album on both DACs. Again I did not think there was any appreciable difference.

    Ollie thought it was risible that I could not hear a difference and mentioned a few specific things he had noticed such as the vibrato on Joni's voice being better resolved through the Soekris, and the piano sounding like an upright through the Soncoz but a concert grand through the Soekris.

    I find it difficult to hold the memory of the sound in my head during the interval of time while the DACs are switched out. I think if I had some way to compare by fast switching between them I would have more of a chance to pick up on any differences. But I think that does indicate that these were not huge differences but subtle.

    Of course subtle matters. But do bear in mind this was all sighted listening and volume was only matched by ear. Which brings me to the conclusion.

    If this was a dealer demo and I'd heard all three DACs with a view to taking one home, which one would I go for?

    I'd go for the Soekris.

    Not that you can get this one from a dealer since it is not stock. Ollie advised that the stock version, with its switch mode supplies. was not as good as this modded one. But after several hours listening my gut instinct was that this was the DAC I preferred. Even though it is the most expensive by some margin, even before you swap the power supplies out.

    Personally, with retirement coming up, I don't think I will be splashing out on one. But it was very interesting to be able to do the comparison and to be able to have a go on the Neurochrome 686. My sincere thanks to Ollie for making it happen and for finding another Krell for me.
    Last edited by Macca; 22-04-2021 at 20:18.
    Current Lash Up:

    *Audiolab 6000CDT* Topping E30 * Philips 22AH380 pre-amp * NAD C320BEE power amp * JM Lab Electra 926 *

  10. #1290
    Join Date: Apr 2012

    Location: Southall, West London

    Posts: 46,491
    I'm Geoff.

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    Good write-up there Martin!
    Repeat after me 'I must not look on ebay! I must not look on ebay! I must not look on ebay! I must not look on ebay!

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