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I have a big problem. My stereo is too good, too accurate. I can't stand it sometimes.

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Steve Hoffman, Nov 23, 2013.

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  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    I've reached that turning point with my main system. It's just telling me the truth, totally. Near perfect resolution. And I can't stand it any more.

    Most of the music I play sounds either lackluster, boring or just plain terrible on it.

    The good sounding stuff sounds good and the great sounding stuff sounds really great, yes, but most of the stuff I like sounds not-great. Flaws really stand out, painfully. I can actually hear (for example on my "transitional" Frankie and Nat Capitol Melrose 1953 recordings) which instruments used what microphones. Fascinating but also, when it goes wrong, deadly to my earballs.

    The price I am paying for having a killer system. I don't own it, it's all long-term loan.

    In the old days when I had a less than wonderful system, most everything (even the stuff that was recorded badly) at least had SOMETHING, a good midrange, good bass, whatever. Now, my system is so pinpoint accurate that thin stuff sounds really thin, songs recorded with Neumann microphones sound too shrill up top and basically it drives me bonkers.

    I honestly don't know what to do. I wish I could degrade my system to make the bad stuff sound better, to mask it but I can't, I need the system for my work.

    I know some audiophiles only play stuff that was recorded well, everything else they have no use for but I love everything, regardless of sound quality. To give that up would be pointless. Not possible after all these years.

    Any suggestions? I need a world-class system so I can listen to my work and judge if I hit the mark or not, that's VERY important to me.

    I need a "degrade" switch or something.

    Never thought I'd be in this position.

    Makes me want to go and play my vintage system where everything sounds good on it but knowing that it's fooling me drives me bonkers as well.

    I've been spending time recently really getting my main upstairs system up and running to perfection (because of the noise and chaos of kids downstairs) and when I play something amazing I'm like moved to tears. But to be honest, most things are recorded less than amazingly and sometimes I think that a lot of the amazing stuff is just a happy accident.

    But, I wish I could have it all in one system.

    Seems I cannot.

    Your thoughts? This is depressing me.
  2. Hagstrom

    Hagstrom I HATE BILLY JOEL

    Philadelphia, PA
    Have a glass of wine or two. See how that changes things.
  3. sennj

    sennj I'm slower than I look...

    Muskegon, Michigan
    My system sucks--maybe we can work out a trade...:D
  4. George Blair

    George Blair Forum Resident

    Portland, OR
    Remaster everything? :cool:
  5. theron d

    theron d Forum Resident

    Baltimore MD
    Could you change maybe one part of the chain? Maybe some Vandersteen 2Ce sig II monitors. They have "musicality" to them, but also could also show truth in the recordings but not so much that it was analytical if the recording had issues. They kinda rounded out the faults....Just my two cents...
  6. Mister Charlie

    Mister Charlie "Music Is The Doctor Of My Soul " - Doobie Bros.

    Aromas, CA USA
    Seems you need one perfect system for work, and another 'warmer' less accurate system for pleasure.
  7. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Fresno, California
    Pull out one of your nice non-amplified guitars. Play it instead of a recording on your best rig. It'll tell you that the Big Rig really isn't all that accurate after all. And if you want to play something for enjoyment, don't play it on the super-resolving rig. I used to listen to everything on Stax Earspeakers, tweaked to be more resolving. I don't want to hear music on them anymore.

    By the way—can't you insert a vintage tube preamp in the chain to warm things up a bit? At least when you're hearing less than stellar recordings?
    Linolad and sgb like this.
  8. sennj

    sennj I'm slower than I look...

    Muskegon, Michigan
    This is an interesting dilemma. I had a system a couple of years ago that was quite nice (though nowhere near as good as our host's system), but certainly "better" than my current rig in terms of accuracy. etc. I had a chance to A/B both systems for a while and I grew to really like the "cheaper" system better. It was simply more engaging to me and I look forward to listening to it every day. Perhaps being able to hear all of the flaws in a recording is more of a curse than a blessing...
    wilejoe and John Carsell like this.
  9. tubesandvinyl

    tubesandvinyl Forum Resident

    Hi Steve,

    I've been frustrated with some of my records because the flaws really stand out. Things like vocal distortion, recordings that pushed the VU meters too far (a la Motown), fuzzy instruments, etc. Yet, if I play those records on a less revealing system, they sound quite good, and very enjoyable.

    The great reward comes when I play a well recorded, well mastered LP. Wow. Total magic. Haunting. Ghosts floating and popping in/out all across the soundstage. To me, it's worth the tradeoff of having lesser recordings/masterings exposed, and, thus, not played on my main rig. I play those records on my second system and enjoy them, much the same way I enjoy listening to oldies AM radio on my Blaupunkt Riveria, Grundig, or 1940's Philips radio. When those songs play on the radio, they sound great and I don't hear any faults.

    Room treatments have helped. For those records that get exposed to a fault, room treatments have somewhat calmed the chaos, kinda like dimming the lights to make things look a bit better and not see all the faults. But I know what you mean. It's still frustrating to hear all the issues on a record, when we have other records that sound so amazing.
    tsead likes this.
  10. Art K

    Art K Forum Resident

    Corvallis, Oregon
    Nail on head, Steve. My first thought was to play only your vintage system for entertainment for a awhile and the big dog for work only. Let that experience inform your next moves. Give it a set amount of time and don't make any moves before you let that time go by. Time to figure out what is really important to you in a playback system that isn't work related.
    davidb1 and macster like this.
  11. farmingdad

    farmingdad Forum Resident

    albany, oregon
    I know what you mean and don't have an answer. I miss the old days of listening to a transistor radio around a bonfire.
    Dave likes this.
  12. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter


    I've been spending time recently really getting my main system up and running to perfection (because of the chaos of kids downstairs) and when I play something amazing I'm like moved to tears. But to be honest, most things are recorded less than amazingly and sometimes I think that a lot of the amazing stuff is just a happy accident.

    But, I wish I could have it all in one system.

    Seems I cannot.
  13. Anyone else not understand the problem here ??? Too good of a system ??? :D
  14. dale 88

    dale 88 Errand Boy for Rhythm

    west of sun valley
    I hear you. Even though my ears are not trained, I quite often run into CDs where I just wish they were 'engaging', soundwise.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2013
  15. jfine

    jfine Forum Resident

    Just go down to your vintage system and pick out some huge midrange old rock, medium loud.
    sami and Mister Charlie like this.
  16. Yes you need a switch to switch in a bees wax/mica parelleled cap combination. Like 0.47uf wax//56000pf mica able to be switched in series with the feed to the final power amp. The vintage switch!
  17. tubesandvinyl

    tubesandvinyl Forum Resident

    I know how you feel. I want to have it all in one system, but I'm realizing that it can't happen. In so many ways, and with many records, I'm hearing things I haven't heard in 35 years of playing records.... but, I'm also hearing the mess in some pressings that make me wish I naive. I'm learning to accept it.
  18. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    get that old Pioneer 1050? monster IIRC? you loved so much back then...I recall and enjoy reading about your fond memories of that receiver...then you'll have both when the mood strikes you to slum it!
    I cannot feel your pain Steve.:)
    Simon A likes this.
  19. JNK

    JNK Well-Known Member

    Wash. DC area
    #firstworldprobs :nyah:

    In all seriousness, mix it up a bit. IE: Put a tube amp in the system that's too good, and put a modern amp in the vintage, or whatever. I've occasionally heard this problem with other stuff, but I always thought it was just joking or disguised bragging or whatever. TBH, I'd say that the best way to go is to just switch systems, switch stuff out, or just deal viz it :cool:

    Also, you might wanna get that earballs thing checked out. My cousin Vince died from that a coupla years ago :p
  20. drh

    drh Talking Machine

    Here's a thought: take a vacation from the problem for a little while by adding to your collection of spring phonos. Buy yourself an Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph, model C-250, which as one of Edison's top sellers is common enough not to be terribly expensive but has the company's best mechanism (big, heavy duty double spring motor, largest of the standard line horns). Get some decent diamond discs to play on it. Marvel (a) at the improbable but true proposition that listeners when it was new couldn't distinguish between these machines and live music, and (b) at how good they do sound, considering that the recording and playback involved nary an electron anywhere. Closest thing to "high fidelity" to come out of the acoustic era. After spending some time with the Edison, go back to the new rig and see if it doesn't sound a bit better to your ears. Even if it doesn't, you'll have had the fun of exploring a new antique machine.

    Oh, and diamond discs, as long as you don't dunk them in water or play them with steel needles, are about the closest thing to an indestructible object as man has contrived to date, and their playback does not require changing out metal needles in a thumb chuck. They're a great way to introduce the kids to the joys of antique audio.
    crispi, Dave and ianhilluk like this.
  21. padreken

    padreken Forum Resident

    San Diego
    A hearty second to your suggestion-I've had my 2ce signatures for 8 years now, and I find their musicality and tolerance for less than optimally recorded material a continual delight (Richard Vandersteen has said he builds speakers for music lovers, not audiophiles). Not perfect, of course-somewhat inefficient compared to others and the sweet spot is really narrow, but every time I play records I treasure from artists that didn't get the Chesky or Sheffield Labs treatment (Delbert McClinton, the Yardbirds, the Dave Clark Five, the list goes on and on), I'm smiling and thinking about music, not gear.

    When I was at RMAF last month, the sampler disc I burned deliberately included some less than optimally recorded stuff. As spectacular as some of the cost no object speakers like the Wilson Alexia (even Vandersteen's own model 7) could be, I suspect I would find the fatiguing in the long term.
    macster likes this.
  22. John Buchanan

    John Buchanan I'm just a headphone kinda guy.

    Sounds like Steve needs to wheel the Tannoys to the super system ASAP. Maybe get some Manepan speakers?
    Interesting - I listen solely on Stax ear speakers and they make me hunger for more music.
  23. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    I had thought about doing that but too much clutter. My man cave is actually our large master bedroom..
  24. Metralla

    Metralla Joined Jan 13, 2002

    San Jose, CA
    I could imagine changing the loudspeakers to something else that doesn't quite have the low frequency and high frequency extension of your current speakers, for a temporary respite. It would be difficult to countenance substitution elsewhere - to deliberately down grade the source or the amplification would not be acceptable, in my opinion. But to insert a speaker that has a rich midrange at the expense of bass and treble - maybe a pair of Tannoys. I could see that.
  25. John Buchanan

    John Buchanan I'm just a headphone kinda guy.

    Easy solution - send the super speakers back. What's the point of these if the software sounds terrible through them most of the time. You need to enjoy your work. We need you to enjoy your work LOL.
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