I “downgraded” and I’ve never been happier…

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Seafinch, Mar 23, 2020.

  1. Seafinch

    Seafinch Preferred Patron Thread Starter

    Settle in…

    About three years ago I was three years into my hifi journey and everything was great… VPI Classic w/ AT33SA, Rogue CMII w/ Budgie Phono Pre, Harbeth C7ES3 and an SVS SB2000. Very enjoyable system, played most music really well - I was happy.

    During the time that I had that system I took a trip to NYC and decided to head over to In Living Sound and take a listen to some Devore O/96. The system he had setup at the time was a Rega RP3 w/ DV 10x5, can’t remember the phono pre but remember is wasn’t expensive - on par with the table, Line Magnetic 508ia and Devore O/96. It was really great, I listened to a few things I didn’t know very well and a few that I did. I left pretty excited (in hindsight I see now that 45 minutes in a room I’ve never been in wasn’t long enough to base much on). At the time the speakers were well outside my price range, but I wondered what the 508ia would sound like with my Harbeths. I ordered one. It sounded great, but I knew the Devores with the 508ia would eventually happen. Shortly afterward I found a deal on some o/93 and thought I’d take a chance. I tried for a few months to make it work but I could never get comfortable with that system. It always felt a bit aggressive in the upper mids and alway left me a bit tired after listening. Not sure whether it was the o/93s or the 508ia that was responsible for the upper midrange stuff that I wasn’t enjoying, I decided to take a chance on an Audio Note Oto Phono SE Signature which quickly turned into me taking a chance on some Audio Note AN-E Spe/HE speakers. This solved the upper midrange thing, but now I had AN bass, which was good for a 8” speaker, but never really felt awesome. I lived with that system in that room for about a year. About six months ago I moved and at the time I thought - maybe my new room would make the AN-Es really sing - my new room is all cinder block and a great size and shape for the AN-E. It didn’t take long for me to realize that as much as I wanted to love the AN system - and I told myself (and others) that I did - it never really felt like it lived up to the hype or the price. I gave it a good chance. For a year and half I listened to it - and that there is the problem - As soon as I switched from the Rogue/Harbeth setup I spent very little time listening to music, but was instead listening to gear. I listened to the same tracks over and over with all the different setups, different sources, different cables, different placement. It was fun for awhile.

    Once I decided that I was ok leaving the Audio Note cult I figured I should try some other stuff in a similar price range. I bought a Shindo Aurieges and a Luxman CL-38uC to try. I had a dealer tell me that a different amp might be better for the AN bass - so I tried some First Watt stuff (J2 and SIT-2) and a Luxman MQ-88uC. I had all that stuff in my room at the same time. It all sounded better than the Oto, but I still found myself just comparing gear and couldn’t disconnect and just listen to music. About a 6 weeks ago I had a wild thought “maybe I can’t listen to music cause I have too high of expectations for this gear.” A setup that I have $20K+ invested in should sound amazing and it did, but that’s all I cared about - not music - just hifi tricks.

    At this point I hit up craigslist and bought a pair on 1981 Klipsch Cornwalls and brought them home. Plugged in the old trusty Linn LP12, the Luxman CL38 and MQ88, engaged the EQ to tame the top end a little bit and put on record after record! I was listening to music! The bass was so much better - I can’t believe I fell for the AN hype for that long. The mids and highs gave up a little bit to the AN-E but it was far closer than I could have ever expected. There was still a little bit of nitpicking going on, but it was way more enjoyable than anything I’d experienced in a couple years. Next I bought a Yamaha A-S2100 as I was told the mosfets would be a nice match to the horns and would still have some EQ options. At 20% of what I had in the Luxman pair it would also eliminate another layer of high expectations. That arrived a few weeks back and the advice I was given was spot on. The bass is even better than it was before, the mids are warmer and the highs a bit sweeter. The Luxman excelled in the presence region, but the Cornwalls don’t need a lot of help with that or dynamics.

    I’ll be honest - I don’t know if it’s all psychological because I’m simply not nitpicking every element of the system anymore, or if it actually sounds better to me because I just needed a better bass foundation for me to really enjoy music. One thing I know is that as a musician the part I enjoy most about music is feeling it - the most engaged I ever am in music is when I’m playing it and that’s far more about feeling it than hearing every detail. Also, I’ve only been to one Audio Note dealer, but he listens to music SO loud and my guess is he does that for the same reason - to actually feel it.

    I also recognize that there are things that the previous iterations of my system probably did better and to some people those things are the most important things - at this point I’d struggle to figure out what those things are cause I’m too happy listening to music to notice.

    One more thing! I bought a tape deck. A Kyocera D-811. I really enjoy ambient, drone and modern classical music and there are a bunch of tape exclusive labels that specialize in that stuff. I can’t believe how much I’ve enjoyed getting into that too. So much music to discover.

    The current system is:
    LP12 w/ Hana SL and A23 SUT
    MHDT Orchid Dac w/ DigiOne Allo Signature for Tidal Streaming
    Kyocera D-811
    Yamaha A-S2100
    Klipsch Cornwall I’s
    + $14K in the PayPal account to buy LPs and cassette tapes




    neilspeed, Ulises, StimpyWan and 84 others like this.
  2. William Bryant

    William Bryant Forum Resident

    Meridian, ID
    Do you ever miss your Harbeths?
    rednedtugent and Seafinch like this.
  3. Seafinch

    Seafinch Preferred Patron Thread Starter

    Yeah. I’ve considered going back to those. Maybe one day I will, we’ll see.
    Rickchick and jusbe like this.
  4. Ntotrar

    Ntotrar Nope

    Tri-Cities, Tn.

    Welcome to a different cult, don't worry we won't make you eat a live chicken. At least not on your first visit.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2020
  5. Seafinch

    Seafinch Preferred Patron Thread Starter

    haha. I appreciate it.
    Ntotrar likes this.
  6. russk

    russk Forum Resident

    Syracuse NY
    I’m running an a-s2100 with Cornwalls right now. It’s a great combo.
    adamos, intensemojo, Manimal and 6 others like this.
  7. Thorensman

    Thorensman Forum Resident

    Your ears are right always!
    I use a Leak Stereo 20
    Garrard 401/ SME 1V/ Benz Glyder,
    Leak 2075,s.
    I tried higher end Amps and could not
    Get the same listening pleasure.
    So i stay with the Stereo 20.
    Does High end exist?
    By the way you system looks amazing.
  8. Paopawdecarabao

    Paopawdecarabao Forum Resident

    Los Angeles
    Have you tried your LM 508 with the Cornwalls? I’ve paired my Fortes with an LM 805ia and couldn’t be happier.
    IanL, jupiterboy and Seafinch like this.
  9. Seafinch

    Seafinch Preferred Patron Thread Starter

    Sold the 508 long before I got the CWs.
    Paopawdecarabao likes this.
  10. Lowgroove

    Lowgroove Active Member

    I have been having similar thoughts re $ to spend on amps.

    I have had separate tube pre amp and tube monoblocks (push pull EL34's) for 18 years. I recently upgraded my speakers and while I am happy with the midrange and treble there is a lack of lower mid punch (which the speakers had at the demo with a different amp).

    So maybe time to replace the amps. I have considered a range of gear (some of which will need to wait while I build the funds - but that is OK). This included tube separates as well as some high end solid state gear (including Pass Labs). Heat will not be an issue after the el34 mono blocks.

    Then I looked at some of the higher end integrated amps and am wondering if the simplicity might be better. Part of my reasoning is similar to above - expectation from mega $ separates. At this stage the Luxman 590AX is looking very interesting. My thinking is the class A option would be less of a shock after tubes for so many years. Would also improve my phono stage.
  11. jusbe

    jusbe Modern Melomaniac

    North Yorkshire
    I like your journey, Seafinch.
    Manimal, ThorensSme and Seafinch like this.
  12. Tim 2


    Alberta Canada
    You did the right thing by leaving the " Audio Note cult ". I've never been impressed with their gear.
    Seafinch likes this.
  13. Folsom

    Folsom Well-Known Member

    Eastern WA
    I think you've reached a mature stage of stereo equipment desire - to simply hear the music. Most people are obsessed with trying to listen to the stereo. Few even really know what the difference between listening to the music and listening to the stereo is... It's probably easy to be sensationalized at first by listening to the stereo because it's new.

    But just because you want to hear the music, and need a stereo that can do that, doesn't mean they don't have better/worse attributes. The desire is to gain within those attributes where you don't also lose the fact that you're listening to the stereo. But looking for improvements is not easy, and people often expect too much from things that have no actual valid reason to improve something. For example I've rolled the hell out of many capacitors on the power side, and I'm pretty opinionated on them to the tune of telling people that so many fancy ones sound like poop - even if you think they're "better" in some way at first. The problem is how to get beyond where you're at if that isn't a viable option, it isn't easy, or even possible with certain things. (I've rolled capacitors in pretty much all locations, that's just one example)

    There's more than one way to get there. I think the Cornwalls are pretty good, but honestly they seriously shine better in bigger rooms. The O/93's seem like they play hot in the 1khz if they're not on-axis (which might be a bit too much anyways). That would tire me out instantly. I'd rather listen to the A25 - but I've heard it sound tiring before, too, maybe due to needing a new capacitor set. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the A26 is the best of all of them. In general though they're all sorta wimpy. And they all suffer from floor bounce which the Cornwall does not.

    I'll hold off on saying more stuff for now. I am going to ask what cables you're using? (I don't like most audiophile stuff at all)
    Donald Burger, jusbe, Rick58 and 2 others like this.
  14. Chris C

    Chris C Music was my first love and it will be my last!

    I enjoyed reading your post @Seafinch and as with anyone with their equipment, nothing pleases me more than to read when someone finds their perfect sound system, which it sounds like you have. I'd like you to know that I went on that Audio Note UK ride myself, especially after reading our host's well thought feelings about that brand. I figured, ok Steve likes many pieces of equipment that I enjoy, like McIntosh, old school Fisher tube amps and old school Legacy Focus speakers, so why not give Audio Note a shot? I so wished that I would have been at your dealer for the audition, as my audition up in Toronto, Canada, couldn't have gone worse. Hi-end dealer, who like most, had horrible listening rooms in a strip plaza. The whole experience turned me off to ever even "think" about buying Audio Note in the future. Even my wife, who has a pretty good ear and who was with me for this audition (NOTE: They used all Audio Note equipment for their audition of the AN-E speakers) and she said "these suck". That's all I needed to hear, after I sat there for ten minutes thinking all along, "these are what so many of the Steve Hoffman Forum members are all so crazy about???" To each their own, I guess, but it taught me to never drink the high-end equipment kool-aid too much around here or I may end up disappointed. I mean when you read from so many different people about a certain product being so great, it makes you feel that I MUST be missing something, right? Note, but I also found the exact same experience with Golden Ear Triton Speakers! Talk about some bad sounding speakers, damn!

    Being a owner of Klipsch "Cornwalls" and my beloved "Chorus 1's", running on either an updated Fisher 500c or my beloved Scott 299b tube amp, the most interesting thing that has got my attention from your post, is regarding that Yamaha A-S2100. I guess that I'll have to search down one of those soon!?!
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2020
    macster, jusbe, bever70 and 3 others like this.
  15. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    I gotta say, just looking at your list of equipment, I'm not sure how your new system represents a "downgrade" of any sort over your previous one. Differences, no doubt, but "downgrade"? I don't see the evidence of a "downgrade."
    Manimal, hi_watt, IRG and 4 others like this.
  16. Todd Fredericks

    Todd Fredericks Senior Member

    A New Yorker
    Just goes to show that you can only really trust your own ears and taste. Thanks for sharing your listening experience. Says a lot!
    Chris C, jusbe, wgb113 and 1 other person like this.
  17. Subagent

    Subagent All I know is What I Read in the Liner Notes

    Arlington, VA
    Glad you found happiness. I only wish you could have done it without having to trash equipment that other readers might own. But the important thing is that you are happy. Well done.
  18. Bolster

    Bolster If it ain't broke try harder..

    Not sure if downgrading is an option for me, unless...

  19. slcaudiophile

    slcaudiophile Forum Resident

    Salt Lake City
    in my opinion, you shouldn't need to justify anything. there is NOTHING worse then turning on your hifi and sitting down with a Caol Ila 12 (btw the Cottonwood Heights liquor store just received a few cases) and thinking to your self ... i wish this system did more of this or less of that. you found a system that makes you happy ... that is the goal and consider yourself lucky ... most audiophiles never get there, no matter how much they spend.

    Manimal, jusbe, Aftermath and 4 others like this.
  20. Shiver

    Shiver Forum Resident

    Great post, Seafinch. Many-a-path.

    Unless I missed it, what phono stage are you using - the one in the Yammy?
    Seafinch likes this.
  21. Tone?

    Tone? Forum Resident

    San Francisco
    I know kinda what you mean. I’m a musician as well and I don’t need much to make me like a system. After spending thousands on guitar amps. Guitars. Hardware for guitars. Guitar cabs. Speakers. Cables . Hardware , etc. there is one simple equation I use now. Yeah I also still use adjectives to describe sounds , but now when I audition anything for sound , what I look for is the enjoyment factor. Just pure emotion as a gauge. No low end , high end, mids , imaging etc.
    Does this system make me want to listen to music? Does it allow the music to give me goosebumps? Does it make me tap my feet and play air drums or guitar ?
    Or does it make me start looking at cables, amps, speakers, and send me down a path of unenjoyable OCDness ?

    I learned that not too long ago with guitars. Keep it simple. Does the guitar make you want to play non stop? Does it feel good in your hand? Does it make you want to express yourself? Good, it’s a keeper.

    Same with sound.

    I’m new to the audiophile thing and I came here to get valuable pointers to help me achieve those goosebumps faster. Cause I’m not that interested in constantly chasing some tone.
    My ears are pretty well trained from playing music for over 35 years. But in the end I know what I like. Heck I even like some room modes. Ha. Yeah. Some frequencies just jive with me and I don’t care if it’s not perfect or sound treated or whatever. Certain freq and keys make me happy or trigger emotion for me. There are no rules.

    Sometimes old blues sounds great on cheap ass boxy speakers. Just sounds cool.
    Even live music we musicians play was never meant to be perfect acoustically.
    Some stuff just sounds cool. Doesn’t have to be transparent or hifi. That BS. Everything has a sound. Nothing is transparent. I just look at gear as instruments. They all have a unique sound that may or may not suit your taste.

    Enjoy the music!
    Donald Burger, PooreBoy, TGH7 and 9 others like this.
  22. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
  23. Seafinch

    Seafinch Preferred Patron Thread Starter

    IME Luxman stuff is really great. Definitely worth a try.

    Thanks for the response. Like a lot of people in this hobby it all started with a love for music and after a brief affair with gear I’m happy to have returned to my first love :)

    I had some concerns about the CWs being too big for my room, but figured there’d only be one way to find out. I’m really surprised by how well they work in my space. Maybe one day I’ll be able to try them in a bigger room.

    Using Belden 9497.

    Every once in a while you stumble on something that just works and I think the Cornwalls and A-S2100 is one of those pairings. Definitely worth a try. Also, it looks like Yamaha has a new version coming out so the 2100 is dropping in price - especially used.

    Yeah. That’s why I put “downgrade” in quotes. I know there’s a subset of this forum that views certain gear as the pinnacle and I left that for something that might be viewed as a downgrade to them. I don’t see it that way though. Also clickbait:)

    Case and point - I had and Audio Note guy text me this week and say “are you really going from Audio Note to Klipsch?” - like I had lost my mind.

    Thanks. Although I don’t feel like I trashed anything - what i meant to communicate is that for me it didn’t live up to the hype and that I found something that suited my tastes better and allowed me to enjoy music more easily.

    Yeah. The one in the Yamaha. It’s quite good, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything I was getting from the phono pre in the Oto or the one the Luxman CL-38uC.
  24. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    seafinch, congrats on finding your "sound" of music!
    unfortunately if you are serious about either, getting there requires lots of experimentation and exposure as you have learned.
    i can relate to your choices too, some of the more memorable systems i have heard involved klipsch heritage speakers, they have that easy flowing live sound.
    part of the beauty of our hobby is experimentation, trying new stuff. nothing wrong with that and it does not have to be expensive.
    peace and much continued enjoyment!
    rocnred, bever70, Tone? and 2 others like this.
  25. Seafinch

    Seafinch Preferred Patron Thread Starter

    Haha. Exactly. It was about a $14k difference from what I had before - and that’s actual money in my pocket, not retail prices.
    Brother_Rael and Tone? like this.

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