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Upgrading The Audio System - What To Tackle First?


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#51 Tassie Devil

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Posted 02 August 2007 - 02:38 PM

Thanks, but there is a downside to it all. There is usually something going wrong somewhere. Cables coming loose, my wife madly pressing the wrong buttons, ...... But I suppose it keeps me out of mischief, well sort of :unsure: Last big blowup here was an older NAD receiver. Nastly smell and sight of burning resistors as it expired. Not worth repairing. Free to anyone who would like to pay the postage before I turn it into a boat anchor. Only one problem with that, I do not own a boat. With all the rain today I really should re-examine that I guess. But for all the audiomania, it is still cheaper than some other hobbies. Isn't it? PLEASE nominate some so I can feel better. :mellow: :mellow:

John

You've well and truly earnt the first line of your signature!!! :P

Awesome stuff John!! :D



#52 Mining Man

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Posted 02 August 2007 - 03:25 PM

... But for all the audiomania, it is still cheaper than some other hobbies. Isn't it? PLEASE nominate some so I can feel better. :mellow: :mellow:

I always comfort myself with this:

I don't necessarily agree with it but I follow the logic.
More expensive speakers will sound different but its all just sound to me.
The volume control is the only differentiating factor I'm interested in, other than having surround sound.

I just dont rate audio as any where near as important as video. Never bought a CD or music of any description outside of ipods for the gf.

But hey, I spend $20-$30k a year on golf so you all probably think thats a waste of money.

Each to their own.



#53 RodN

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Posted 02 August 2007 - 07:03 PM

Not sure about focusing on something in the future. Enjoying the journey is so much fun. I guess if ones work requires future focus all the time its really quite nice just to revel in the present of your system and upgrade for pure pleasure!

#54 Tassie Devil

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Posted 02 August 2007 - 07:16 PM

Hedonist :blink: What are you doing lurking here among us serious upgraders? No focus - bah. You are as bad as the rest of us. :blush: You should have realised by now how illogical my journey has been. Hence my logical posting set up to taunt you BUT you are not taking it seriously :ph34r: I think we should take a vote about condemning you to listening to MP3 on Bose speakers. :blink:

John (he who MUST be taken seriously)

Not sure about focusing on something in the future. Enjoying the journey is so much fun. I guess if ones work requires future focus all the time its really quite nice just to revel in the present of your system and upgrade for pure pleasure!



#55 the joz

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Posted 02 August 2007 - 07:25 PM

But for all the audiomania, it is still cheaper than some other hobbies. Isn't it? PLEASE nominate some so I can feel better. :mellow: :mellow:

John



Motor racing/sports

Yachting/powerboat racing.

Polo.

Aviation...................I know there are plenty more aswell.At least this one(audio) kind of keeps you at home.Unless there's GTG's.

#56 Mining Man

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Posted 02 August 2007 - 07:36 PM

Not sure about focusing on something in the future. Enjoying the journey is so much fun. I guess if ones work requires future focus all the time its really quite nice just to revel in the present of your system and upgrade for pure pleasure!

I understand what you are saying.

To clarify - if your dream system (and you consider, in all likelihood, that you will one day get there) is something to rival Gino's, then you would probably consign yourself to going through a few variations and combinations to get there. The experimental phase, if you will. And with that kind of end result, you'd be mad if you didn't.

But if your goal is to have a projector hanging from the ceiling of the living room and a bit of surround sound to watch a few movies, check out the grand final with your mates, and maybe the odd special TV event, then you'd be gutted if you invested your limited budget on an item that didn't really deliver the best you could get for the eventual purpose. It's why we all so often advise people against spending $2k on 5.1 speakers, if they have every intention of spending $6-7k in the long run. Speakers are one of the few items you can get bit by bit, and hang onto for the long term. If you get the right ones to begin with... :blush:

Of course, upgrading for the sake of it, from a hobby perspective, is why the rest of us are here!! :lol:

EDIT: I realise this post is rather 5.1-centric, but I don't think the logic is entirely unsuitable for 2-channel systems either.

#57 :)

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Posted 02 August 2007 - 08:08 PM

ah enjoy and savour the upgrades I reckon. I've never jsut bought everything in one hit. more of a one step at a time type. allowing each step to be appreciated on its own standing :)

it sure is a hobby though no question ! and yeah sure cheaper than buying a jet ski or a pool table I keep telling my wife :) hehe

like the bit about "At least this one(audio) kind of keeps you at home" as a hobby joz. I'll stash that away in the locker so can be pulled out at the appropriate moment when needed for defense ! hehe

#58 chefscuba70

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 11:57 AM

Speakers are one of the few items you can get bit by bit, and hang onto for the long term. If you get the right ones to begin with... :blush:

Of course, upgrading for the sake of it, from a hobby perspective, is why the rest of us are here!! :lol:

EDIT: I realise this post is rather 5.1-centric, but I don't think the logic is entirely unsuitable for 2-channel systems either.


I couldn't agree more with you there, MM.

The purchase of my 801's in the early 90's, was a huge expense, as I was a young commis chef (brigade (kitchen team) title, given to a recently qualified chef) at the time, but has become a massive investment to me as they still provide excellent sound and a huge enjoyment today and beyond :wub: :) .

Though over the years, my greatest expense has been chasing the HT upgrade path. And mostly due to upgrades, I also can confess to having 6 dedicated and running audio/ht systems :o :) .

This starts me to reflect...

*From an all-in-one sound system to intergrated: been there.
*From intergrated to receiver (remote): been there.
*From receiver to pre/power amp: been there too.
*From vinyl to many cdp: here as well.
*Trying to intergrate many add-on surround processors: me too.
*Adding visuals to the mix: ah hah.
*Upgrading to dream main speakers: yes please.
*Spending big money on Monster cable snake oil: I'm trying to hide in the corner, but my hand is raised.
*Putting green pen on all of my cd's edges for (alleged) improved cd sound: I'm really trying hard to hide somewhere.
*Buying a laser disc player (the future of sound & video) & upgrading it: Damn you spotted me.
*Putting green pen on LD's: I'm seeking help.
*Upgrade to surround amp for AC3: I did....twice.
*Big tv screens: a mesmerizing yeeees.
*Update surround/centre speakers for new sound: a few times, getting tears in my eyes.
*Upgraded many times to the unbeatable quality of DVD: guilty, sniff, sniff.
*Thinking of uprgading to blue ray/hd dvd: I want to but I'm vulnerable & afraid of getting hurt by now.
*New sound formats/processors coming out: pleeeeease stop, my therapist can't take it anymore.

Taking it back to the start & finding bliss in glorious 2ch sound: priceless.

Newbies, your ht journey awaits you! Stick to 2ch sound, it's much more enjoyable and alot less painful.

chef.

#59 Tassie Devil

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 12:20 PM

Lot of common sense here Chef but don't downplay MC. My take is that most MC addicts have the surround channels at unrealistically high levels and some recordings are guilty of this. Surround should be subtle with as clean as possible L/R 2 CH. In HT the centre channel is as equally important as the L/R as it carries so much of the speech, but is less important in MC music.

I guess what I'm saying supports your thesis about the joy of excellent 2Ch but I'm arguing that MC, done properly (which it often is not) adds rather than detracts to the musical enjoyment. I've been messing about with added ambiance extracted from 2 CH for close on 30 years, generally successfully with a couple of notable exceptions, one being an earlier model Lexicon which well and truly turned the signal into mush. What I generally do is to keep the 2 CH away from any processor but feed back 2 CH from the preamp into a processor for surround. Works well as you can independently control the 2 CH and the surround from the processor + gives you the option of playing around with different DSP settings for the surround without corrupting the mains.

Now there's an idea for more toys to play with folks :unsure:

John

I couldn't agree more with you there, MM.

The purchase of my 801's in the early 90's, was a huge expense, as I was a young commis chef (brigade (kitchen team) title, given to a recently qualified chef) at the time, but has become a massive investment to me as they still provide excellent sound and a huge enjoyment today and beyond :wub: :) .

Though over the years, my greatest expense has been chasing the HT upgrade path. And mostly due to upgrades, I also can confess to having 6 dedicated and running audio/ht systems :o :) .

This starts me to reflect...

*From an all-in-one sound system to intergrated: been there.
*From intergrated to receiver (remote): been there.
*From receiver to pre/power amp: been there too.
*From vinyl to many cdp: here as well.
*Trying to intergrate many add-on surround processors: me too.
*Adding visuals to the mix: ah hah.
*Upgrading to dream main speakers: yes please.
*Spending big money on Monster cable snake oil: I'm trying to hide in the corner, but my hand is raised.
*Putting green pen on all of my cd's edges for (alleged) improved cd sound: I'm really trying hard to hide somewhere.
*Buying a laser disc player (the future of sound & video) & upgrading it: Damn you spotted me.
*Putting green pen on LD's: I'm seeking help.
*Upgrade to surround amp for AC3: I did....twice.
*Big tv screens: a mesmerizing yeeees.
*Update surround/centre speakers for new sound: a few times, getting tears in my eyes.
*Upgraded many times to the unbeatable quality of DVD: guilty, sniff, sniff.
*Thinking of uprgading to blue ray/hd dvd: I want to but I'm vulnerable & afraid of getting hurt by now.
*New sound formats/processors coming out: pleeeeease stop, my therapist can't take it anymore.

Taking it back to the start & finding bliss in glorious 2ch sound: priceless.

Newbies, your ht journey awaits you! Stick to 2ch sound, it's much more enjoyable and alot less painful.

chef.



#60 terry j

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 02:06 PM

ha ha chef,

had me giggling a few times, good work. :rolleyes:

It's good to hear your success with multi channel on the stereo TD, the more you mention it the more my curiosity is aroused. It is most definitely on my 'to do' list.

Seeing as how you brought it up, I for one would love a thread from you explaining the concept of ambience in 2 ch, the traps and pitfalls, optimum setups et al. :blush:

#61 Tassie Devil

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 02:10 PM

So what CDP to buy? As posted before, there are fewer to choose from in the mid/lower range these days but if I was hunting for one now, I would look seriously at a Rega http://www.rega.co.uk/html/apollo.htm The guys at Auduio Asylum and elsewhere have been impressed. This unit follows Al's recommendation of having a Master Clock.

Past that I would try to hunt up a Rotel 1072 http://www.rotel.com...ecs/rcd1072.htm (probably no longer made so you would be looking used which might not be such a bad idea) and maybe have it modded. A later upgrade could be a Benchmark DAC 1 which itself could be later modded. http://www.benchmarkmedia.com/dac1/ These can be purchased locally or imported with the saving of a few hundred dollars.

The problem with the above recommendations is that you are probably faced wuith buying sight and sound unseen & heard. That is about the only way I can buy these days but has worked well after careful research. It is always good to post for opinion on the net and the Digital Board of Audio Asylum has some pretty clued up guys. http://www.audioasyl...igital/bbs.html

In rough terms, if you want anything of quality, it seems the starting point is around the $AUD1500 mark. Less expensive players could stand in as an interim measure if the budget is tight but every time an upgrade is performed and you cannot use the displaced item, you lose money, even if it is saleable :angry2:

John

#62 Tassie Devil

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 02:23 PM

ha ha chef,

had me giggling a few times, good work. :rolleyes:

It's good to hear your success with multi channel on the stereo TD, the more you mention it the more my curiosity is aroused. It is most definitely on my 'to do' list.

Seeing as how you brought it up, I for one would love a thread from you explaining the concept of ambience in 2 ch, the traps and pitfalls, optimum setups et al. :blush:

Terry, here are some preliminary thoughts on that.

You could do it relatively inexpensively with a pair of used bookshelf speakers at the back, a used 30W stereo amp and a used processor that had DSP settings besides DD. It is simply a case of taking the line level output from the preamp section and feeding it into the surround amp. The older NAD amps and a Proton I have here have a junction link beween the preamp & amp so a couple of Y RCA plugs work in that situation. If there was no break in the preamp -> amp sections (the usual situation), it would be possible to tap into the circuit and maybe sacrifice the tape out feature (who bothers with it these days?) and change it a preamp out to those sockets. The volume control on the second amp would determine the "ambiance" level and the volume control of the main amp would act as a master volume control.

Yes, it is more gear to junk up the room to annoy your partner, but it is fun (not annoying your partner, just playing around with toys, sort of reverting to kiddie Lego assemblage days).

John

#63 chefscuba70

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 02:56 PM

Hi TD,

I agree, most people have their surrounds to loud. It's way annoying enough in HT let alone MC music. I personally just don't like MC music on my system. It just doesn't sound clean enough as opposed to 2ch sound, even with the so called music sound fields in the processors, I think these are just gimmicks, which are fun to play with in the beggining, but I got tired of it and refrained from using them.

Having said that, I am totally with you, when I'm laying down with the right music playing and you add a touch of surround volume to the front mix, it can be a very cosy ambient sound to relax to.

I guess for me also, I don't play much music through my HT speakers as the Energy's give me that, forward, crashing, in your face, exciting crisp sound that is great for movies, but to bright without enough deep tight bass for my liking when playing music through them, compared to the 801's.

One of the biggest problems I fell into prior to seperating my 2ch system from my HT system was I used to run the 801's with the ME 750's from the Yamaha and then Denon surround amp. Even in Pure Direct mode my 2ch sound was lacking the dynamics and clarity I used to acheive when running source direct through the pre-amp and into the power amps. The penny dropped one day, I realised my big expensive main speakers had become nothing more than effect speakers in HT duties with inadequate stereo sound.

My early generations of surround processors were add-on units that I looped through the tape in/outputs which gave the 2ch fronts independents from the surround channels like you say. The problem for me with that was, to adjust the volume you had to tweak both the front volume and then the surround volume and get your levels/balance correct again each time. Which is why I went to the surround amp option that gave me the above mentioned problem.

Of course I could have/should have/ wanted to get a surround pre and the thought of having a stack of ME amps in the rack to power the surrounds gave me wet spots in bed at night (also from drooling) but the choices years back weren't many and the total costs was just way out of reach.

I'm sure yourself and others would agree, the journey is a costly but fun one. Though sometimes I wish I could take back all the money I spent and start again with a clean slate, the uber setup I could build, but of course, that's not how the money came to me.

chef.

#64 chefscuba70

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 03:24 PM

ha ha chef,

had me giggling a few times, good work. :rolleyes:

It's good to hear your success with multi channel on the stereo TD, the more you mention it the more my curiosity is aroused. It is most definitely on my 'to do' list.

Seeing as how you brought it up, I for one would love a thread from you explaining the concept of ambience in 2 ch, the traps and pitfalls, optimum setups et al. :blush:


Thanx terry,

I hope I wasn't the only idiot who bought the green pen.. um.. ok 3 pens to paint the discs with :blink: .

I have an old but working Yamaha DSP, DSR 100 pro with original 2 x 40 watt amp that I bought way back in the early 90's that cost me $3k that I'm not using if one would like to make an offer to acheive this experiment.

And I'm sure you will pick me up on my error TD :rolleyes: , but I just remebered, I didn't loop the signal back to the pre, which would have given me a master control for volume as my pre amp volume had to be turned right up to compensate from the drop of volume from running this loop. Then the thought of someone flicking a direct source back through the pre would have been nasty.

chef.

#65 Tassie Devil

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 03:42 PM

Hope we are communicating clearly.

The simplest set up is with a preamp + the mains. It is them simply a case of splitting the line out (or using a second line out) from the preamp which normally goes to the main amps
-> both the main amps AND also to a processor i.e. two feed outs from the preamp instead of one. Then
Main amps -> main L/R stereo speakers
Processor -> second amp -> rear speakers

If it is an integrated amp and has no preamp -> internal amp link which can be broken, then my suggestion is to do a hack job with soldering iron to turn the normal tape out into a preamp line out - running leads from the volume control potentiometer would achieve that - a no brainer.

As the feed is coming from the preamp or that section of the integrated amp, then the main volume control acts as a master control. The volume on the second amp can generally be set once and forgotten. It well might be that this volume on the second amp can be set from the processor.

John

Thanx terry,

I hope I wasn't the only idiot who bought the green pen.. um.. ok 3 pens to paint the discs with :blink: .

I have an old but working Yamaha DSP, DSR 100 pro with original 2 x 40 watt amp that I bought way back in the early 90's that cost me $3k that I'm not using if one would like to make an offer to acheive this experiment.

And I'm sure you will pick me up on my error TD :rolleyes: , but I just remebered, I didn't loop the signal back to the pre, which would have given me a master control for volume as my pre amp volume had to be turned right up to compensate from the drop of volume from running this loop. Then the thought of someone flicking a direct source back through the pre would have been nasty.

chef.



#66 terry j

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 04:07 PM

Thanks John

although if someone wants info on this it's buried in a thread they would never think to look in for that info.

I should have thought a bit more before I asked for advice on how to do the ambience thing, it's quite tricky to do in my case, I've already thought it through on how to possibly achieve it, it is rather more complicated than the easy first step you proposed unfortunately.

Still, I take heart that someone at least finds it worthwhile, so I'll give it a go and see if I like it too.

#67 terry j

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 06:12 PM

I did think of a question you might be able to help me with on this John, from your experience with ambience how important in your estimation is any bass content in the rear speakers??

Specifically the frequency cutoff I have in mind is 300 hz. Would I lose an awful lot in the ambience channels if I only routed to it signals above 300 hz?? Often bass is in mono anyway, so would be cancelled out in routing to the rear, but then again mono bass is not usually considered to be up to 300 hz(I would guess), if you know what I mean.

Too tricky to explain why, but it would be logistically and monetarily a lot cheaper if I didn't need the rears to go much lower.

#68 Tassie Devil

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 06:52 PM

I did think of a question you might be able to help me with on this John, from your experience with ambience how important in your estimation is any bass content in the rear speakers??

Specifically the frequency cutoff I have in mind is 300 hz. Would I lose an awful lot in the ambience channels if I only routed to it signals above 300 hz?? Often bass is in mono anyway, so would be cancelled out in routing to the rear, but then again mono bass is not usually considered to be up to 300 hz(I would guess), if you know what I mean.

Too tricky to explain why, but it would be logistically and monetarily a lot cheaper if I didn't need the rears to go much lower.

No, I think you are on the right track Terry. In fact the rears I use are electrostats that start to droop sharply below 200 and I'm not bass shy in the system here. More important to have really good subs (and I like more than one to break up resonances) in the 0.1 channel. IMO it can be a big mistake to try to push too much bass from the rears as you can run into phase & bass cancellation problems. The ears are not very good at locating the source of low frequencies although 300 hz is pushing to upper bass.

John

#69 :)

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 06:55 PM

So what CDP to buy? As posted before, there are fewer to choose from in the mid/lower range these days but if I was hunting for one now, I would look seriously at a Rega http://www.rega.co.uk/html/apollo.htm The guys at Auduio Asylum and elsewhere have been impressed. This unit follows Al's recommendation of having a Master Clock.

Past that I would try to hunt up a Rotel 1072 http://www.rotel.com...ecs/rcd1072.htm (probably no longer made so you would be looking used which might not be such a bad idea) and maybe have it modded. A later upgrade could be a Benchmark DAC 1 which itself could be later modded. http://www.benchmarkmedia.com/dac1/ These can be purchased locally or imported with the saving of a few hundred dollars.

The problem with the above recommendations is that you are probably faced wuith buying sight and sound unseen & heard. That is about the only way I can buy these days but has worked well after careful research. It is always good to post for opinion on the net and the Digital Board of Audio Asylum has some pretty clued up guys. http://www.audioasyl...igital/bbs.html

In rough terms, if you want anything of quality, it seems the starting point is around the $AUD1500 mark. Less expensive players could stand in as an interim measure if the budget is tight but every time an upgrade is performed and you cannot use the displaced item, you lose money, even if it is saleable :angry2:

John

getting bakc on topic, there are some great budget players john. cambridge audio and nad for instance make some really nice numbers in the under $800 mark that will send your average Cd player hell even a $2000 universal for a 6 in regards CD replay. after that the rotel is a beaut player another really well put together option in my opinion is the arcam CD73 amazing quality for under $1000. in the range above that theres some really nice players from cyrus, arcam, cambridge audio MF and pegging under the $2500 mark the marantz sa-15 which also a very nice sacd player si really worth considering in my opinion.

#70 Tassie Devil

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 07:08 PM

Good list Al. I had a (highly modded) Marantz SA-17 for SACD & CD until the (used) Esoteric purchase. It is on offer to a friend so, until it is actually bought I suppose I should say "have". I'm starting to feel like the middle man who loses heaps selling his best toys to others :ph34r:

John

getting bakc on topic, there are some great budget players john. cambridge audio and nad for instance make some really nice numbers in the under $800 mark that will send your average Cd player hell even a $2000 universal for a 6 in regards CD replay. after that the rotel is a beaut player another really well put together option in my opinion is the arcam CD73 amazing quality for under $1000. in the range above that theres some really nice players from cyrus, arcam, cambridge audio MF and pegging under the $2500 mark the marantz sa-15 which also a very nice sacd player si really worth considering in my opinion.



#71 b&wbynature

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 10:25 PM

Ok peeps...now before clicking on this link and dying of shock I ask u all to take a seat. Just to enlighten u all, there is an age old discussion about cabling and how much will the more expensive cabling will improve your system well look no further......click on the link and tell me what u all think of the justification of spending this kind of $$$ on peripherals........

It's kinda scary..... :rolleyes: :unsure: :rolleyes:


http://www.stereotim...m/mw2006c.shtml

#72 terry j

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 12:00 AM

don't forget to scroll down the page, some old friends also make their appearance!

#73 SDL

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 12:39 PM

This is a really good thread, and well worth the read over my lunch.

In regards speakers, just in my travels I think there are many wide and varied. At times they arent necessarily better jsut different.


I think this is an often overlooked point. Sometimes we listen to something else and think Wow! I can hear something else in these speakers and think it makes them better but it is just a different sound. With fear of stating the obvious it is why the 10-15 minute demo in HN, JB or even a speciality store can often leave people disappointed a few months down the track and looking for something else.

#74 terry j

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 10:10 AM

Great read John, with many useful tips for those trying to get some understanding of the best way to upgrade.
Over the years there have been a few changes in system hyerachy , just before I started in the retail game speakers were thought to be the most important part of the system , then Ivor T came along and turned the whole thing on it's head and now ,with digital sources ,we seem to be back to speakers being the most important.
I don't think there is enough focus on the quality of source components and too many folk seem to buy systems with expensive speakers and imo inadequate source and amp components.
Gordon


Hi Gordon

please, was this Ivor T someone called 'Ivor Tiefenbrun'?? I vaguely recall seeing that name somewhere recently, and IIRC I think he was an advocate of the front end, and maybe even railed against digital sound...or something?

It might not even be the same bloke, in which case it doesn't matter, but if it was I'd have to put my thinking cap on and try and find it again (that is of course if it's interesting, don't exactly remember!).

Can you enlarge on the 'turn the whole thing on it's head'? From the context it seems he reversed the existing 'speakers are the most important' to some sort of acknowledgment of the importance of the front end, is that correct?

thanks Gordon

#75 Dr X

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 10:40 AM

I'm not sure if it's been mentioned here or not, but blocking the ports in your speakers can drastically improve the overall sound. I block the rear firing ports on my speakers and the bass becomes more even and transient attack is way better. You'll hear more skin from the bass drum. It's suppose to increase lower frequency extension as well. This way you can have your speakers hard up against a rear wall with no effect. I use socks to block mine. It could be the cheapest and most effective tweak/upgrade you could ever do.