Starting over?

Discussion in 'New Gear - Values' started by SeattleHiFi, Aug 18, 2017.

  1. SeattleHiFi

    SeattleHiFi Active Member

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    I have been steadily becoming more focussed on sound and performance in the last 5 years. I have learned a lot and enjoyed a lot from experimentation. But this last 6 months or so, I feel like I have lost my way. I don't enjoy music as much anymore, and find myself looking for ways to fiddle around with setup to change things consistently
    These are the things that will stay permanant in my system; my record collection, my McIntosh tuner, and my Michell turntable.

    I currently have KEF Ls50s, which do somethings really incredibly amazingly well, but in my medium size room, they lack macro dynamics and low end. Of course I knew they would never pressurize the room with super low bass, but I thought they would put more out in the mid bass region. They are powered by a Yamaha AS-1100 amp, which is also a nice sounding integrated.

    Maybe I am just feeling nostalgic for my vintage McIntosh setup up from when I started out, or just a fuller richer sound (even at the expense of some resolution). In short I miss the extra magic that just makes music and not so much of the 'hifi' if you get my drift.

    Should I be looking at a different amp/speaker combo? Any ideas or thoughts?

    I would appreciate the thoughts of those who have found their way off this merry go round.
     
  2. techguy0192

    techguy0192 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I'm with you. I also have become a victim of being addicted to chasing audio nirvana. As a result the primary focus became chasing more and more expensive components. Just listening was no longer enjoyable. I will say having a hyper reveling system isn't always best. I've done a comparison of the LS50 and the Vandersteen 1Ci speakers and felt that the Vandersteen's were superior overall while being in the same price range. This comparison was on an all Ayre system. The transmission line design provides efficiency and helps extend the bass response.

    If you're looking for a really warm/lush sound, a Conrad Johnson preamp/amp combo would put you well on your way with the LS50.

    After buying and selling and spending more money that I would like to admit, there has been one constant for me on this journey. I started out with McIntosh well over a decade ago and always had at least one Mac components. After owning many different brands, I have come full circle back to an all McIntosh setup. For me, it just sounds right. I don't feel the need to constantly keep up with the last model of whatever brand I was buying at the time. McIntosh, the products, and designs are simply timeless. Owning both current model McIntosh and vintage McIntosh at the same time, I don't feel that the older components are out-of-date or totally out classed by the latest and greatest from the company.
     
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  3. asilker

    asilker Bible Reader Subscriber

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    My 2a3 amp driving Altec 604's is not perfect. The design limitations of the 604's are well documented... And I realize that my pairing is part of the low power cult.

    However, it does have a huge scale and very involving kinetic experience. Maybe something in a large format is worth checking out
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2017
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  4. SeattleHiFi

    SeattleHiFi Active Member

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    141
    Thank you for the responses. I could definitely see landing at Mc stack and calling it a day, but funds are limited to what I can trade or sell my current setup for. So I will definitely keep my eye out on that front. I have never heard Vandersteen speakers. I have heard a lot of positive remarks, and looks like it digs significantly deeper than the KEF's for sure.

    As far as trying big speakers like Altecs, I would love to, but I am an apartment dweller in the city! I have some room to play with, but not a lot. Its a studio apt that my GF and I share. I do miss tubes, and have contemplated a tube front end is well, but my space really requires an integrated amp at this point.
     
  5. prighello

    prighello AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Why not get a subwoofer if you want more low end?
     
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  6. asilker

    asilker Bible Reader Subscriber

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    I can understand that. I'm running full size Altec cabinets in a 700sq/ft apartment in Chicago. Still, a studio might be more difficult.
     
  7. RGA

    RGA Super Member

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    My suggestions depending on budget would be to look for the Audio Note K (Lx or Spe - $2300-$3000), J(D, Lx or Spe $2800-$5600) or Volti Audio Rival ($7,900). All of these can be placed near the wall or in corners and all are happy with 7 watts of tube power (SET friendly).

    ALL are big improvements over the KEF (which I own).

    I have owned Audio Note speakers since 2003 so I suppose I am off the merry-go-round because while I am an audio equipment reviewer and I appreciate the hobby aspect and hi-fi sounding gear the industry puts out - I also want to simply enjoy music and not constantly be listening for this or that aspect of sonic feats. Audio Note does that for me.

    The problem is the mainstream speaker industry IMO has to sell a certain kind of "look" and the look isn't necessarily in line with quality music reproduction so they have a look in mind and then shoehorn sound reproduction into the look that sells.

    And since there are so many good speakers out there it's next to impossible to really make a lot of suggestions without a budget.

    The KEF is a fine speaker but it's not in my view a "fall in love with the sound" sort of a product. It doesn't give me the goosebumps while listening. And my suggestions are just tough to find products in most areas.

    I tend to follow the person suggestion Altec and other older speaker designs and concepts because it seems to me it was about music reproduction versus sonic trait achievements of most modern gear.

    At his last California Audio Show I found that the best 4 rooms at the show had 3 horns and the AN E (which acts as a corner loaded pseudo horn) which have design principles going back to the dawn of speakers. Even the AN E is 40+ years old.

    And then you attach a SET/Tube amplifier so there is something to it all. A sense of dynamic ease and breath of life qualities that SS amplifiers and the KEF LS-50 lacks. It's all technically good but when you compare to the better sounding gear of yesteryear it really shows up a kind of clinical quality that is ultimately lacks my engagement. I also tend to like companies where music is heart and center of the effort and not some marketing department or soulless corporation.

    Part Time Audiophile just did a huge article on them with a video. https://parttimeaudiophile.com/2017...nd-life-in-the-fast-lane-with-peter-qvortrup/
     
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  8. SeattleHiFi

    SeattleHiFi Active Member

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    141
    Thank you for those thoughts. I have been feeling something similar, even though I did not live through the golden age of hifi. The only problem with audio note, is there is absolutely no where that I know of in the PNW to see, feel and hear them.

    The OTO integrated looks really awesome. The speakers also seem like they could be really nice. Hard to say though, since the product lineup gets a little confusing via their website.

    Who knows, maybe one of these days I will make it to an audio show and give them a whirl. If one did take the plunge with audio note, how would you go about ordering them anyway? (Their website is a tad...out of date in terms of design.)
     
  9. RGA

    RGA Super Member

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    Hong Kong
    You can't order it online at all - they sell through dealers and they want people to hear it first anyway. That means less sales I suppose but then they have order books so long that I don't think it concerns them much if they lose some sales. You go to a dealer you hear something you like and you place the order through the dealer and it could be 6 months until you get it. Most companies offer you say 3 colour options for your speaker so the dealer can stock 3 colours of the speakers - but with Audio Note they have 40+ options so everything is built to order. The dealer has a book with all the actual wood pieces in a big binder. The AN K/Lx is around $2300 and this quantity of choice is available. Compare that to say a B&W N805 which has about 3 choices. You can walk out of the store that day though with B&W N805.

    So you really have to like the sound of the AN K to put up with the lead times versus walking out of the store then and there. I talked to Peter about this because even his dealers have trouble selling that to people - especially in the Canada and the US - cultures not known for patience with drive through fast food everywhere.

    And for this reason you will never see a huge dealer network either because it's a difficult "sell" to convince people to wait for a made to order product. Of course some of the other products I like are even worse off in terms of even less dealerships!

    But audio isn't much different that other high end products. You can buy a Timex anywhere but you have to go out of your way a little more for a Rolex and you have to go even further out of your way for a Patek-Philippe. Same for cars - every town sell Ford, not the case with Aston Martin and even less the case with Bughatti/Lambo. Soundhounds in Victoria Canada can be reached by ferry from Seattle. This is my favorite dealer due to laid back approach and a fairly large collection of gear to compare.

    But there are other fine speakers like Spatial Audio, Pure Audio Project, Harbeth but the issues here are either size (too big for an apartment) or not being tube amp friendly which limits future options.
     
  10. SeattleHiFi

    SeattleHiFi Active Member

    Messages:
    141
    Yeah, I totally get that they have a much different business model than say, B&W. I also appreciate the desire to get people in front of the gear to give it a real world whirl. Guess you just need to really want to seek it out with these guys. I personally wouldn't mind waiting on a product for made to order options, if I knew and expected that going in. I guess with them it would be helpful if they had more of that mission statement and BTO reality illustrated via their website, which is how many of us will probably want to learn more about their products. I also really disagree with the publish no price attitude (they are not the only ones.) There is that old saying "if you have to ask how much it costs..." but, I feel like looking at price points is a really healthy way to understand how to outlay ones budget (though I also don't like the pro-ject 'build something at every possible price-point' approach.)

    Anyway, I appreciate the thoughtful responses. The Spatial speakers look crazy! Never heard open baffle speakers before. Harbeth seems really nice, but kind of over-priced for what they are IMO.
     
  11. RGA

    RGA Super Member

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    1,096
    Location:
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    Audio Note does things in an old school manner - their website was designed and built by a fan and it rarely gets updated because they don't hire people to do it. Which frustrates people but there is still an awful lot of content on their website. They make over 700 products so keeping it updated is difficult.

    As for prices - well the problem is that when you make to order there is no set price because prices change via the currency conversion in respective countries. I have talked to them about it and they are implementing a price based on the pound. All the dealers have a price list but trying to update their site is difficult. This is different than many other companies because virtually (in fact every) other audio company doesn't have the breadth of product built to order. Sure there are some made to order speaker companies but they only make a couple of different speakers.

    It's frustrating because you have to hunt to find the prices through reviews or going to a dealer. But since they don't sell online anyway - it's not like you can add to basket. Besides - how else can the dealers up sell you on stuff hahahaha. Oh I like this amp soooo much and you then find it's 30% over your budget. But if you shop by price how else can they seduce you to go the extra? Pretty smart plan if you ask me. Sound that opens your wallet.

    Don't even get me started - I listened to the AN J/L - lovely sound - then they said hey try this - AN/J/Spe and I just could not go back to the L. But an extra $500 - oh well - I had to have it - then hey try this...no no. Stop. I now try not to "try that" anymore. I bought the $5,800 AN E/Lexus and then made the mistake of going to a symphony pianist's home to listen to his $25,000 AN E/Spx Alnico speakers. And it just stopped me in my tracks. So a year of saving and selling off a bunch of stuff and nearly a kidney - well see my sig line. And the sick part is there are about 5 higher end models.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2017
  12. sqlsavior

    sqlsavior AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    This is an excellent budget suggestion.

    For a higher budget, you could get brand new production McIntosh C22 preamp and MC275 power amplifiers. They are the classic designs, modernized, and are well reviewed. With retro, you can have your cake and eat it, too! Then tell your dealer you'll try a pair of Harbeth Super HL-5 Plus, and the Audio Notes, and you'll bring back the losers after thirty days...
     
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  13. SeattleHiFi

    SeattleHiFi Active Member

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    141
    I have thought about a subwoofer, but really don't have space, or money in the budget, to do it justice. I would love to have the reissue McIntosh tube setup, but that would be a long ways away. That said, we have completely re-arranged the apartment. The speakers are now on a longer wall, much farther apart, about 9.5 feet, rather than 6.5. This setup sounds significantly more interesting, and has kind of cinerama/technicolor soundscape. I like it. It still doesn't have some of the magic that I want, but it is much more enjoyable.

    Things I have learned about the LS50's that are really important:

    1) Positioning with these speakers is hypersensitive. Bass response changes quite drastically even with small changes in a matter of an inch or two. Midrange depth and purity change quite dramatically as they get pulled farther out in the room.

    2) They are incredibly revealing. Everything that gets changed upstream, no matter how minute, really shows up downstream. So while these speakers are definitely reasonably priced for the performance you get, I can't imagine pairing them with just anything upstream.

    I am hoping down the road I can at least spring for a nice tube phono preamp, as the vinyl end of this is the most important for me.
     
  14. mjw21a

    mjw21a Super Member

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    The magic combination for me is a cheap little 10WOldchen EL34B SEP amp paired with Dayton USA PS220-8 drivers. I tried going to Red Wine Audio Signature 70.2 mono blocks which was incredibly detailed and transparent though I didn't enjoy listening through them at all and went back to the little Oldchen.

    I liked it so much that I got an Oldchen KT88-K3 push / pull in my main system which sounds incredible with vinyl... I've found it makes digital music sound flat though with Melz 6H8C tubes installed though everything is incredible with Shuguang Treasure CV181-Z preamp and Tung Sol KT120 tubes .... If only Shuguang tubes were more reliable. The CV181-Z simply has better resolution whereas the Melz are too smooth and transparent highlighting the compression of digital music.

    Thank goodness for tube rolling :)
     
  15. johnda

    johnda AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    The LS50’s are not speced for deep bass response and being rear ported really need proper positioning. Folks have loved them and I think they are great sounding speakers. My Q300 speakers have a great neutral sound, and I am sure the LS50’s have more potential but my living room and WAF factor would not support speakers on stands. Visit the LS50 owner’s thread here and see what they are saying.
     
  16. roadie1

    roadie1 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Very timely post. I almost pulled the trigger this evening. Now I have food for thought. I may just have a listen to some Focals instead. I've heard they play nice with Krells.
    R1
     
  17. Hawkeye83

    Hawkeye83 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    It is timely. I am on my 2nd go-round with LS50's and comparing them to my KEF 107's. Winner stays. Unfortunately sonics will not be the only factor...cost, associated/required gear, size, everything will be considered.

    I agree with what is posted above. The LS50's are a quite remarkable little speaker. They do some things VERY well. I'm also not sure I'm in love with the sound. VERY detailed, images float in the air. Bass seems a bit "generic" to me though (it's probably a lot to expect powerful, nuanced bass from such a small speaker). Bass QUANTITY I find acceptable, especially along with a 12" subwoofer. Just not in the same league as the 107's. The sound appears to hang back by the speakers, at least the way I have them set up. With the 107's, the soundstage seems more engaging to me...in the sense that it projects forward from the speakers more (to my ears). I could live with the LS50's but feel like I'd be wanting a more engaging experience, I think. The hyper-detail can be very exciting though at times! But am not getting the goosebumps yet...

    I often think about "rebooting." It will be interesting to see what I do in a few years. Whichever speaker wins out now will stay for 2-3 years (famous last words). At that point, we should have more money and I'll probably do some auditioning before deciding which way to go. So far, I've mostly had higher powered amps and lower efficiency speakers...KEF, Apogee. I had Quad 57's which used a lower power amp. But I'd like to hear some Tannoys with a lower powered tube amp. Also on my bucket list are Beveridge speakers, but there's a lot of risk/reward there (limited service on them I think) and they are huge!

    Good luck on your journey. Sounds like you want to get off the merry go round. Let us know if you stick with the LS50's or what you end up with!
     
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  18. lokerola

    lokerola AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I have a nice set of Epi M100's I restored and while they're lovely speakers, they just didn't cut it for me in my large, weird, living room. I started to think that maybe I needed a tube amp, or some such other expensive gear to get the full sound I wanted.

    But then I pulled out the big old Cerwin Vega's and, what do you know? The current setup is fine - I just needed bigger speakers. Sometimes you need need to break out the big guns....perhaps you could add a nice sub, or try some larger speakers?
     
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  19. SeattleHiFi

    SeattleHiFi Active Member

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    141
    For now I am sticking with the LS50's. If I had more discretionary income, I would experiment. But alas, I am a poor wayfaring college student ;). I agree completely about the LS50 assessment you made. I sometimes have a problem with 'engagement' with the speakers. They do detail wonderfully, and as long as your ancillary equipment is up to the task, the reproduce smooth high end and an ultra clear mid-range. I sometimes miss the Dahlquist DQM 9's i had certainly overall a more engaging speaker, but their high frequency response could become quite disjointed and jagged at times (lovely midrange, and decent bass though. They also look like they belong in 1981 where they came from haha.) I personally would be willing to sacrifice a little ultimate resolution for a more engaging speaker, something perhaps a tad more 'forward', but I do not know yet what that is. The Spendor D7 looks really nice and seems right up my alley from all the descriptions I have read, but it is for the moment way outside anything I have to spend for such things.

    That said, I have experimented a lot with placement, cabling, and isolation in my system, and the KEF's follow every little change. Everything makes a difference is what I have learned. Some bigger, some less. I switched from Transparent the Wave speaker cable earlier in the year to Kimber 4TC. Much much better midrange, bass, and tonal balance. I have replaced my Tecnodec with a Gyrodec/SME 309/Quintet Bronze/Bob's SUT combo, which was a huge leap.

    I am considering the iPhono 2 stage, to finally bring my vinyl rig into the right balance (been using the built in on the Yamaha, its not bad.)

    Somewhere down the road I would like to experiment with more speakers, and when I do will update this thread for sure.
     
  20. RGA

    RGA Super Member

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    1,096
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    The KEF LS-50 is a fine speaker but it's not a fall in love with it sort of sound. You may want to tilt the speakers up and see how that works for you. There are a lot of loudspeakers in the sub $2k price range that are quite excellent and not reading stereo magazines and going by what you like is often the best approach. Magazines are generally geared to the big mainstream products (all of which get rave reviews). So while I like my KEF I like other sub 2k and sub $1k speakers more.
     
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