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  1. #1
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    CD Player choice

    My current System is Rotel components.Amp RB-980BX,CD RCD-965BX,Pre-amp RC-1090.2 years ago I replaced My Proac stand speakers with B&W 703's.The 703's are way too bright and edgy in my system.I should have put a lot more effort into my speaker choice. The Proacs I replaced were much sweeter to my ear with no listener fatigue even at high volumes.I have tried different interconnects and bi-wiring with no real improvement.My 12 year old CD player is probably my weakest link.I'm looking at Arcam73T$700 and upgraded Tjoeb4000 for $1300.I'm desperate to tone down the 703's.They get fairly good reviews but in my system they have way too much top end.The Arcam is a great value, but the Tjoeb may be better for my system.Is a tube player my best chance to counteract the edgy 703's.Any opinions on my system and possible CD players in $1000 range would be appreciated.I feel as though I have wasted $3000 with poor speaker choice and don't want to make matters worse with wrong Cd player.My system is unacceptable in it's current configuration.

  2. #2
    Digs tunes and vids RJW1138's Avatar
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    Hey man,

    I think you might need to give a little more thought to why your system sounds so bright. I haven't personally heard any of your gear, but with all the positive reviews I've read on the 703's, I'd be surprised if they were seriously bright. I'm wondering if maybe your system is a bright one, and the Proacs were toned down up top, thus evening this out.

    Since great CD players will be tonally very neutral, they'll only help tone down the brightness in your system if it's really your current CD player that's bright, and not your speakers. If your CD player is neutral, than a new one will really just be changing other charactertics, but not its tonal balance.

    I dunno, but I'm not sure about selecting a CD player based on how its tonal balance fits into your system. In my opinion, a source should be tonally as absolutely neutral as possible, and you shouldn't be considering one that isn't. What you should really be looking for is the differences in detail, attack, soundstage, and everything else.

    I guess my thinking is that a source is an important piece, and things like speakers and amps tend to change more often than sources. What if you bought a source that was warm to compensate for this, and then after upgrading other parts of your system, your system was now too warm? This is why I'm thinking you should start off at the start of the chain as neutral as possible, and go from there.

    However, on the other side of things, maybe a CD player is more prone to obsolence, and you'll be replacing it sooner than speakers or amps. I guess if you're trying to spend $1000 to improve your system to a point where you're satisfied, why not do it by replacing your 12 year old CD player?

    Well, I guess all I've done is talk in circles. What are your thoughts on any of this?

    Since your source IS 12 years old, I think you should be upgrading it just because CD playback technology has improved immensely in this time, and you're bound to be really pleased by a new purchase anyways. I've heard the Arcam CD73T, sadly over bright headphones, and while the end sound was bright, I could tell that the Arcam was very detailed, very smooth, and had a nice black background. I sure wanted it for my system, but couldn't cough up that much cash. The Tjoeb I haven't heard, but I've heard great things about it, and same with the Rega Planet 2000 and the Jolida JD-100. These seem to be the players at about the $1000 price point. I wish I had heard any of them, and could offer you opinions on how they sound, but sadly I can't.

    Anyways, good luck with your quest of taming your highs!

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the input. I hope you're right about my components being more of a problem then the 703's.At $3000 I'm obviously committed to them.I'm going on the hope that my CD player is the biggest offender.As you said CD player technology has improved in 12 years so it's a good place to start.The worst part is that I was truly happy with the Proacs, just thought it was time to treat myself to an "upgrade".

  4. #4
    Digs tunes and vids RJW1138's Avatar
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    Doh! You gotta hate that. Oh well, this hobby is all about making mistakes, learning for yourself what you like and want, and hopefully one day ending up with something you're really happy with. Fortunately, the process of getting there is usually pretty fun too!...(though hard on the wallet)

  5. #5
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    You've tried several different remedies, but did not mention perhaps the most important variable that typically requires redressing -- the room acoustics and related to that, the speaker placement. Speakers can and will sound dramatically different from one room to another. Something that sounds harsh in one room, can seem properly balanced and smooth in another.

    If you have a small room with lots of hard surfaces, you have to tame the acoustical effects first, because strong reflected sound that interacts with the direct sound in close proximity will create time domain distortions that make the sound seem harsh. In addition, surface materials will absorb and reflect the sound differently at different frequencies. Highly reflective materials such as glass and concrete will also create an emphasis on the high frequencies.

    Another issue that you should address before anything else (especially cabling) is with the speaker placement. If you're using a two-channel system, some manufacturers recommend pulling the speakers out from the front wall by at least 3'. Using sound absorption behind the speakers also helps to smooth out and focus the sound. Fortunately, changing the speaker placement won't cost you a dime, and acoustical changes to your room can be as simple as hanging tapestries from the walls, placing acoustical foam pieces at the reflection points, buying a rug, or putting bookshelves (with books of different sizes in them) along the walls to break up the reflected sound waves.

    Rotel CD players are not known to sounding especially harsh or bright, so changing to another CD player (besides one with a tube output section) won't provide nearly as big a difference as the room treatments likely will.

  6. #6
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Don't discount the possibility

    Quote Originally Posted by BillyB
    My current System is Rotel components.Amp RB-980BX,CD RCD-965BX,Pre-amp RC-1090.2 years ago I replaced My Proac stand speakers with B&W 703's
    ....
    It is possible that an amplifier upgrade would do as much to improve your sound -- and tone down the 703's -- as a CDP upgrade. I assume your Rotel is an older model too.

    I found a huge improvement when I upgraded from my entry-level NAD C370 to my current Bel Canto. Really, there was much more improvement from the amp upgrade than there was from my earlier upgrade from my old, circa 1990 Technics CDP to the Sony I'm using now.

    The Bel Canto provided a "huge", (in audiophile parlance ), improvement to resolution and transparency. What sound like bright, high-frequence hash became subtle detail -- voice & instrument harmonics and spatial information.

    However you's better come to grips with the fact that you'll need to move beyond entry-level, viz. lower priced lines of NAD, Rotel, Adcom, Parasound. In most rooms a quality intergrate will be fine with the 703's, but you will be looking in the US$1500 - 2500 range. There are both solid state and tube options in this range.

  7. #7
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    cables?

    Consider the possibility that existing cabling might not cut the mustard with upgraded speakers. From experience, I noticed that cheap speaker cables were much too harsh when I upgraded my speakers. Perhaps a not-so expensive speaker cable upgrade to something a little more accurate and less harsh might work. I have Bedrock and it is a quiet cable with no noticeable harshness. It was about 190 for a 9 ft pair. that was about my buidget limit and may be way too high for some. Several other people who reviewed the cable have noticed this characteristic as well. Just a possibility, good luck. dk

  8. #8
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    Reply to Feanor

    Thanks for your input.My gut feeling is to replace the CD player first.I think technology has changed more in CD players then in has in amps in the last 12 years.I'm leaning towards the Arcam73T which can be upgraded later to 93T with hardware change purchased from Arcam.I've been hard pressed to find any negative feedback on the 73T.It's hard to believe it lists at only $699.It may be the best bang for the buck out there.

  9. #9
    all around good guy Jim Clark's Avatar
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    I wouldn't be to hasty to dismiss the possibility that you just don't like the speakers and no amount of room correction or component swapping is going to change that. Imho you are just going to be pooring money down a hole going that route, especially jacking with cables. I have yet to hear the B&W speaker that I don't consider bright. I don't mean listening fatigue either, it's almost painful to listen to from the moment I hear them. With so many people loving them, I try them when I get the chance. Over the past 13 years my opinion hasn't changed. The only asterix needed is that I only listen to the models I can afford so anything over 4 grand I don't bother with. Those may indeed be great speakers but I don't see the need to waste the time on it.

    Personally I would see if the dealer has a trade in program as many do. Within a certain time frame some even offer 100% trade in value towards a more expensive speaker. Then pray to the audio gods that there is a line you actually like in the same store. At two years though, it's probably too late. That's where Audiogon comes in. There are doubtless hundreds looking for your speakers and would find them stellar. Then you can start over with something that you'll like.

    Oh, and btw the Jolida 100a is a killer CDP. Mine still has the stock tubes and I hear that tube rolling only makes things better. I don't have a lot of experience in that so I can't confirm or deny that but I'd honestly be a bit skeptical. Still, in it's stock form it's a real beauty that has outperformed my expectations. As great as I think it is, I don't think it would come close to fixing your problems. I bought mine new for 750 delivered but there are always options at Audiogon for 5-6 hundred.

    Good luck whatever you decide.

    Regards,
    jc
    "Ahh, cartoons! America's only native art form. I don't count jazz 'cuz it sucks"- Bartholomew J. Simpson

  10. #10
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Don't let me dissuade you

    Quote Originally Posted by BillyB
    Thanks for your input.My gut feeling is to replace the CD player first.I think technology has changed more in CD players then in has in amps in the last 12 years.I'm leaning towards the Arcam73T which can be upgraded later to 93T with hardware change purchased from Arcam.I've been hard pressed to find any negative feedback on the 73T.It's hard to believe it lists at only $699.It may be the best bang for the buck out there.
    The Arcam 73T is, by all accounts, a great CDP, so if you go for it I'm sure you'll be please by the player itself. On the other hand I fear that it won't solve your sound problem.

    My long held opinion is that in a medium price systems like yours (or mine), the component that makes the most difference to the sound is speakers; after that, it's the amplfier. Digital sources rate a rather distant 3rd, IMO. If you don't think speakers themselves are the culprit, try the amp next. If you have audiophile buddies or a dealer who will loan equipment, swap out your Rotel equipment for both a newer, a higher quality amp and CD player and see which makes the most difference.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Clark
    I wouldn't be to hasty to dismiss the possibility that you just don't like the speakers and no amount of room correction or component swapping is going to change that. Imho you are just going to be pooring money down a hole going that route, especially jacking with cables. I have yet to hear the B&W speaker that I don't consider bright. I don't mean listening fatigue either, it's almost painful to listen to from the moment I hear them. With so many people loving them, I try them when I get the chance. Over the past 13 years my opinion hasn't changed. The only asterix needed is that I only listen to the models I can afford so anything over 4 grand I don't bother with. Those may indeed be great speakers but I don't see the need to waste the time on it.

    Personally I would see if the dealer has a trade in program as many do. Within a certain time frame some even offer 100% trade in value towards a more expensive speaker. Then pray to the audio gods that there is a line you actually like in the same store. At two years though, it's probably too late. That's where Audiogon comes in. There are doubtless hundreds looking for your speakers and would find them stellar. Then you can start over with something that you'll like.

    Oh, and btw the Jolida 100a is a killer CDP. Mine still has the stock tubes and I hear that tube rolling only makes things better. I don't have a lot of experience in that so I can't confirm or deny that but I'd honestly be a bit skeptical. Still, in it's stock form it's a real beauty that has outperformed my expectations. As great as I think it is, I don't think it would come close to fixing your problems. I bought mine new for 750 delivered but there are always options at Audiogon for 5-6 hundred.

    Good luck whatever you decide.

    Regards,
    jc
    Thanks for the input. I've thought many times of offing the 703's at a loss.There is a good chance I could find a speaker in the $1500 range with characteristics more to my liking.The tough part would be the look on my wife's face when she sees me carrying the $3000 703's out to my truck.She doesn't get the whole audiophile thing.She may have to just get over it.Some things are worth fighting for!!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woochifer
    You've tried several different remedies, but did not mention perhaps the most important variable that typically requires redressing -- the room acoustics and related to that, the speaker placement. Speakers can and will sound dramatically different from one room to another. Something that sounds harsh in one room, can seem properly balanced and smooth in another.

    If you have a small room with lots of hard surfaces, you have to tame the acoustical effects first, because strong reflected sound that interacts with the direct sound in close proximity will create time domain distortions that make the sound seem harsh. In addition, surface materials will absorb and reflect the sound differently at different frequencies. Highly reflective materials such as glass and concrete will also create an emphasis on the high frequencies.

    Another issue that you should address before anything else (especially cabling) is with the speaker placement. If you're using a two-channel system, some manufacturers recommend pulling the speakers out from the front wall by at least 3'. Using sound absorption behind the speakers also helps to smooth out and focus the sound. Fortunately, changing the speaker placement won't cost you a dime, and acoustical changes to your room can be as simple as hanging tapestries from the walls, placing acoustical foam pieces at the reflection points, buying a rug, or putting bookshelves (with books of different sizes in them) along the walls to break up the reflected sound waves.

    Rotel CD players are not known to sounding especially harsh or bright, so changing to another CD player (besides one with a tube output section) won't provide nearly as big a difference as the room treatments likely will.
    The only thing I have to go on is that the 703's were the only change I made.Equipment,speaker placement,and room acoustics were unchanged.My conclusion is I made a poor choice of speaker.I've been told that my 12 year old Rotel CDP would tend to be bright when compared to a good quality(Arcam,Tjoeb,etc.) player in the $1000 range.I would simply advise anyone considering the 703's to be cautious.The 700 series was a complete redesign.B&W states that all the drivers used in this series were changed to new specifications.Don't let B&W's reputation for quality sway you.These speakers are revealing to the point where less then perfect CD's sound harsh.Only about 10% of my collection sounds tolerable.In this price range there are truly some great speakers out there,so I'm extremely pissed off I wasn't more thorough in my search.Thanks for your ideas.

  13. #13
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BillyB
    The only thing I have to go on is that the 703's were the only change I made.Equipment,speaker placement,and room acoustics were unchanged.My conclusion is I made a poor choice of speaker.I've been told that my 12 year old Rotel CDP would tend to be bright when compared to a good quality(Arcam,Tjoeb,etc.) player in the $1000 range.I would simply advise anyone considering the 703's to be cautious.The 700 series was a complete redesign.B&W states that all the drivers used in this series were changed to new specifications.Don't let B&W's reputation for quality sway you.These speakers are revealing to the point where less then perfect CD's sound harsh.Only about 10% of my collection sounds tolerable.In this price range there are truly some great speakers out there,so I'm extremely pissed off I wasn't more thorough in my search.Thanks for your ideas.
    And my point is simply that your room acoustics have a huge role in making the sound harsh and incoherent -- and remedying acoustical problems with the room can produce a FAR greater improvement than amplification and cabling. Different speakers interact differently with their rooms. Your Proacs might have simply had a more forgiving sound in the highs that worked well with a bad room, and in a treated room, this might sound bland by comparison. Since you're not looking to get rid of your speakers, I would highly recommend that you work with your room first before you go committing to expensive front end and cabling upgrades that might cost you a lot of money, and still leave you with a sound you're unhappy with.

    The room is the second most variable part of any audio system (next to the speakers), yet it's by far the most ignored aspect of the audio chain. It just floors me whenever people suggest cabling and amplification upgrades without ever considering the room acoustics, when in actuality the room acoustics have so much greater audible variation and potential to degrade the system performance that those other considerations are laughably miniscule by comparison.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woochifer
    And my point is simply that your room acoustics have a huge role in making the sound harsh and incoherent -- and remedying acoustical problems with the room can produce a FAR greater improvement than amplification and cabling. Different speakers interact differently with their rooms. Your Proacs might have simply had a more forgiving sound in the highs that worked well with a bad room, and in a treated room, this might sound bland by comparison. Since you're not looking to get rid of your speakers, I would highly recommend that you work with your room first before you go committing to expensive front end and cabling upgrades that might cost you a lot of money, and still leave you with a sound you're unhappy with.

    The room is the second most variable part of any audio system (next to the speakers), yet it's by far the most ignored aspect of the audio chain. It just floors me whenever people suggest cabling and amplification upgrades without ever considering the room acoustics, when in actuality the room acoustics have so much greater audible variation and potential to degrade the system performance that those other considerations are laughably miniscule by comparison.
    Your point is well made. My listening room has hardwood floors and a 14' vaulted ceiling.These aren't ideal conditions.I did try an area rug, but surprisingly it didn't help much.There is a huge fabric sectional in the room which I thought might help with some sound absorption.Unfortunately my biggest restriction is with speaker placement.I think my distance between them is OK, and I toe them in to try and create a sweet spot in the middle. My problem is I simply can't bring them off the wall any more than about 6 inches.If I do one of them is directly in the main walkway of the room.I've heard distance off the wall can be very critical.I honestly haven't even tried moving them off the wall significantly because they simply can't stay that way even if it helps.Not an easy fix!!!!The speakers are front ported by the way.

  15. #15
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BillyB
    Your point is well made. My listening room has hardwood floors and a 14' vaulted ceiling.These aren't ideal conditions.I did try an area rug, but surprisingly it didn't help much.There is a huge fabric sectional in the room which I thought might help with some sound absorption.Unfortunately my biggest restriction is with speaker placement.I think my distance between them is OK, and I toe them in to try and create a sweet spot in the middle. My problem is I simply can't bring them off the wall any more than about 6 inches.If I do one of them is directly in the main walkway of the room.I've heard distance off the wall can be very critical.I honestly haven't even tried moving them off the wall significantly because they simply can't stay that way even if it helps.Not an easy fix!!!!The speakers are front ported by the way.
    Those room conditions are definitely not very good. You might need to mount acoustical foam up in the ceiling at the reflection points. Also, if your speakers can go no more than 6 inches from the wall, you really should look into some acoustical treatment along the front wall. That will smooth out the sound and noticeably tighten up the imaging coherency. You should try out the speakers pulled out from the wall. Even if you can't keep them in that configuration, you need to at least diagnose the degree to which that close-in wall placement affects your sound.

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