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  1. #1
    Audio casualty StevenSurprenant's Avatar
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    What's the bottle neck?

    I have a Trends TA 10.1 digital amp driving home brew speakers (SEAS Excel Woofers & Newform Ribbon tweeters). As of this moment, I am using a Panasonic Blue Ray player as the source (Analog out). Soundstaging, separation, and clarity is very good, on par with some of the better systems I have heard. Still, there is room for improvement ( as always).

    Where my system seems to fall short is in the resolution of cymbals. It seems to lack that last amount of realism. I should also include violins in this. I've heard these tweeters do better with different equipment.

    As for my amp, which is already modified, I am thinking about changing the input caps to Mundorf. I have Auricap now and they are very transparent, but I have found that Mundorf for the speaker crossover really opens up the sound compared to other caps I have used. There are other mods I can think of for this amp, but I'm groping in the dark here. I have no desire to change amps, but that is always a possibility. What the Trends do well, they do VERY well. If I do change amps, I don't want more than 30 watts of power. My system is in a small room and the 5 watts that the Trends puts out is enough, most of the time.

    The other thing is the Panasonic Blue Ray player. This could be the entire problem. It wasn't designed as a highend audio player. Still, it is very good and much better than other players I have used. I have an OPPO 980H which has pretty good digital outs, but the analog (which I need) is sub par.

    So...

    Any suggestions without getting expensive?

  2. #2
    Phila combat zone JoeE SP9's Avatar
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    Why not try an outboard DAC?
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  3. #3
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StevenSurprenant
    I have a Trends TA 10.1 digital amp driving home brew speakers (SEAS Excel Woofers & Newform Ribbon tweeters). As of this moment, I am using a Panasonic Blue Ray player as the source (Analog out). Soundstaging, separation, and clarity is very good, on par with some of the better systems I have heard. Still, there is room for improvement ( as always).

    Where my system seems to fall short is in the resolution of cymbals. It seems to lack that last amount of realism. I should also include violins in this. I've heard these tweeters do better with different equipment.

    As for my amp, which is already modified, I am thinking about changing the input caps to Mundorf. I have Auricap now and they are very transparent, but I have found that Mundorf for the speaker crossover really opens up the sound compared to other caps I have used. There are other mods I can think of for this amp, but I'm groping in the dark here. I have no desire to change amps, but that is always a possibility. What the Trends do well, they do VERY well. If I do change amps, I don't want more than 30 watts of power. My system is in a small room and the 5 watts that the Trends puts out is enough, most of the time.

    The other thing is the Panasonic Blue Ray player. This could be the entire problem. It wasn't designed as a highend audio player. Still, it is very good and much better than other players I have used. I have an OPPO 980H which has pretty good digital outs, but the analog (which I need) is sub par.

    So...

    Any suggestions without getting expensive?
    Yep, it could be the entire problem. An external DAC might help, like Joe says. Meanwhile have you actually tried the OPPO with the Trend?

    Also, the Newforms are very wide dispersion and hence first-reflections from the walls might be a problem; do you have have appropriate wall treatments?
    Last edited by Feanor; 03-04-2011 at 11:16 AM.

  4. #4
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    What's your music source - LP, CD, hi-rez digital?

    If CD, remember that format is brick-walled at 22KHz. Cymbals are one of the few instruments with a lot of energy above 10K.

    As for LPs, they are extremely variable when it comes to frequency response above 10K or 15K. Many analog open reels used by recording studios (virtually everything recorded before roughly 1980) didn't have a lot of response above 15K so even LPs are not a reliable medium for cymbal recording.

  5. #5
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Get a high quality DAC like a Benchmark or better.
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  6. #6
    Audio casualty StevenSurprenant's Avatar
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    To answer everyones questions...

    I tried the OPPO and the sound was very dry (flat?) coming from the analog out. In the past, I used the OPPO with a receiver using the digital circuits and it sounded fine. I had read that the analog out on the OPPO was subpar and I have to agree. Unless I go with an outboard DAC as some have mentioned, the OPPO is out.

    I do have a couple of DAC's laying around, but I'm not sure how good they are. I'll give them a try and see what happens. Both of them are Behringers. One of them is the DEQ2496 Equalizer and the other is a modified DEX2496 digital crossover, but they both can be used as DAC's. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

    My source is CD. My ears - 16kHz.

    As for first reflections on the walls... Out of necessity, the Newforms are in a very small room and the side walls are inches away from the speakers. I would think that these first reflections would be nearly in phase and time with the source signal, but I'll check it out.

    I should mention this as I find it interesting... (first reflections)

    When I was designing the crossovers I had a single Newform about 25 feet away. There was a wall to the right, about 5 foot away from the speaker and the other wall was about 20 foot to the other side. When I played music through the speakers the sound seemed to be coming, not from the speakers but, from the space between the speaker and the nearby wall. It really goes without saying that side wall reflections play an important part the image formation. Now, I'm guessing here, but if I set up the stereo (both speakers) with a wall 5 foot to either side of both speakers, the image would not be as defined as it could be. Of course you could use this effect to create a more spacious soundstage at the expense of pin point imaging. More to the point, You could use this effect (using one speaker at a time) to determine where to place wall treatment. As an example, if I placed more sound absorption on the wall that was 5 foot from my speaker, the image should move closer to the speaker. Anyway, you get the idea. The only reason I even brought this up was because knowing what treatment to place where is always hard and perhaps this method could make the process more scientific and less of guess work.

    Overall the consensus is to try an outboard DAC.

    Thanks everyone, much appreciated.

    I do have some questions about DAC's, but I'll bring it up in another post.

  7. #7
    Phila combat zone JoeE SP9's Avatar
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    Placing first reflection wall treatment is easy. Sit in the listening position. Have someone move a mirror along the side wall. When you can see that speaker in the mirror you've found the first reflection point.
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  8. #8
    Feel the Tempo eisforelectronic's Avatar
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    electricity is your first bottleneck. Separate breakers for each component, larger electrical wires.
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  9. #9
    Forum Regular pixelthis's Avatar
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    DIGITAL AMPS are relatively new, and are by their nature questionable.
    GET A decent class A/class a/b solid state amp.
    AS FOR YOUR PLAYBACK DEVICE, a lot of hokum goes around about various disc
    players . TRUTH is most come from the same place. Dacs are important, most
    in cheaper devices stink pretty bad.AN external one can help
    AND YEAH, redbook is brickwalled, so what? Most can't hear much above 12,000hz.
    I USED to know someone who could, he was a GERMAN SHEPARD POLICE DOG
    where I worked. ANYTHING much above 15,000 is academic for humans.
    BTW your signal is digital, converted to analog, played with with your digital amp,
    you get the picture? IF YOUR AMP could take a direct digital signal, that would be great.
    ANYWAY, GOOD LUCK.
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  10. #10
    Audio casualty StevenSurprenant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeE SP9
    Placing first reflection wall treatment is easy. Sit in the listening position. Have someone move a mirror along the side wall. When you can see that speaker in the mirror you've found the first reflection point.
    It's been a while since I've treated a room. I've been moving my system around a lot and never had a chance to do that. I forgot about the mirror trick, but you're right. In my old house the most improvement came from putting sound absorption on the ceiling. The room was very wide. Thanks.

    @ eisforelectronic - I am using a PS Audio Power Plant Premier and given that my amps only put out about 5 watts each, that should be sufficient. My system consists of 2 Trends T amps and a Panasonic Blue Ray player. I have read that the Trends sound best on battery power, but I've never tried that. For my tastes in volume, I probably only use about 1 watt of power, small room and all. Thanks.

    @ Pixelthis - I had a Mark Levinson 331 in the past which is a class A amp. I like the T amps better. However, I am using different speakers now and am not using a preamp, so it's possible that I could change my mind if I had them both here to compare. On the other hand, I can lift the T-amps. The 331 weighed over 100 pounds.

    As for going digital all the way - I have that option. I have a Panasonic receiver that keeps the signal entirely in the digital domain. I like the Trends T-amps better for sound quality. It may sound like I think the T-amps are the end all of amps, but I'm sure they can be bettered, but not on my income. They are holographic and produce a very clear and deep soundstage. The noise floor is so low that when music dies out at the end of a song, it seems that it reaches the limit of my hearing. Anyway, it's good stuff for the money. Thanks.

    To all -

    My experience with DAC's is limited. Not counting the Behringers or the Panasonic receiver, I've owned a couple of them, an Aragon DAC and a California Audio Labs tube DAC. Each was marginally better than a straight CD player, but that was many years ago. What I found was that each different transport I used sounded different with each DAC. In other words, each transport had it's own sound. I even noticed this when feeding the Panasonic receiver. The only way for this to happen was if the bits were distorted in some way between the transport and the DAC. In my mind, as long as the digital doesn't get disturbed on it's way to the DAC, the quality should be identical between every DAC, in the digital domain. However, once the signal is converted to analog, this is where things begin to change. Perhaps one digital to analog algorithm is superior to another or the analog circuitry of one is better than another. I don't know.

    What I do know is that I modified the analog output circuitry on one of my Beringers and the change is clarity was a huge improvement. I haven't compared it to the onboard DAC of my DVD player, at least not yet! I read about better clocks that lower jitter and improve sound and better power supplies and even better decoding chips. In the end, I am more confused than ever.

    The best clarity and soundstaging I've ever heard came from a Theta DAC hooked to a Pass Labs Aleph amp with Watt Wilson speakers in one system and a system with all Spectral gear and the Avalon's flagship speakers, but this was about 16 years ago.

    Anyway, I'm just rambling...

    I'm going to take the outboard DAC recommendation seriously and as long as I can bring one home to try without committing myself, I will look into it.

    Thanks everyone.

  11. #11
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    I tried my Panasonic BD80 Blu-ray optical out playing cd's into a Audio GD NFB-12 DAC driven by a Miniwatt amp and the sound is excellent and on par with my high dollar tube CD player. I believe the Panny transports are pretty good.

  12. #12
    Audio Hobbyist Since 1969 Glen B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StevenSurprenant
    As for my amp, which is already modified, I am thinking about changing the input caps to Mundorf. I have Auricap now
    How about V-Caps ?

    http://www.v-cap.com/products.php

  13. #13
    Audio casualty StevenSurprenant's Avatar
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    For those following this thread...

    I tried both my Behringers as DAC's and they were both an improvement over the analog out from the Panny player. The change was huge.

    It's a strange thing...

    Often times we think our systems are as good as their going to get, but then we change something and what we thought was perfection is now considered sub standard.


    Oh well, I guess that's what's fun about this hobby.

    Thanks all.

  14. #14
    Forum Regular pixelthis's Avatar
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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenSurprenant
    For those following this thread...

    I tried both my Behringers as DAC's and they were both an improvement over the analog out from the Panny player. The change was huge.

    It's a strange thing...

    Often times we think our systems are as good as their going to get, but then we change something and what we thought was perfection is now considered sub standard.


    Oh well, I guess that's what's fun about this hobby.

    Thanks all.
    sure.
    A LOT OF EARLY BLU players wouldn't even play CD, they added it later. AS AN AFTERTHOUGHT. Whole thing is probably on a chip, if that.
    So of course anything will sound better.
    FYI except for players geared for audio, videi disc players are notorious for their bad CD
    playback. ITS A TRADITION, like using CANADA for a buffer zone during a nuke war
    (oops).
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  15. #15
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    If you are considering a DAC, take a look at the DAC's from avahifi.com They have a 30day no questions asked return policy. I use one of his hybrid tube DAC's.
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  16. #16
    Audio casualty StevenSurprenant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven
    If you are considering a DAC, take a look at the DAC's from avahifi.com They have a 30day no questions asked return policy. I use one of his hybrid tube DAC's.
    The Music Hall DAC seems more in my price range. What's you take on that unit?

    Just so you know, my "dream" is to have great separation of instruments in the sound stage. I've only heard this twice in my life with very expensive equipment. Actually one system took it too far, but being able to hear everything separately was intoxicating. To be more precise, I could "see" the space between instruments. I get that effect now depending on the instruments being played, but this doesn't occur with everything in the soundstage, at least not to the degree that I want it to. I get pretty good layering, meaning I can tell what's in front and what's in back of the recording and my soundstage is wide and deep. I've heard better layering too, but that could have been a result of the room the system was in. I do remember that they were using a Theta Digital DAC in that system. They also used Theta Digital in one of the two systems I mentioned above.

    Anyway, I just read many reviews of many DAC's and everyone pretty much compared one to another and spoke mostly of analytical or analog sound, you know what I mean. There was some, but little discussion about image separation. Perhaps I am expecting to much.

    As it now stands, I put my modified Behringer DCX in the system as a DAC and it has made a very nice improvement over the analog outs of my Panny Blue Ray player. I have a couple more upgrades that I can make to it that promises to improve the sound. I have the parts to upgrade the power supply, the clock. and the input chip to the unit. Each of these upgrades promise to improve the sound substantially, but I'm not sure how to define "substantially". I guess that I'm somewhat nervous about working with such small components and that's why I have put it off for so long. Originally, I hadn't planned on using the DCX as a DAC. I had been using it as a crossover for my speakers. but I decided to build passive crossovers to reduce the complexity of my system. Ideally, a DAC with a built in pre-amp would be my first choice as long as it would exceed the sound quality of the DCX.

    For now, I guess that I'll risk destroying my DCX and if I do, I'll be in the market for a new DAC.

    Thanks

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