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Old 5th May 2008, 10:04 AM   #1
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Default Won't you please help me?

I think I must be doing something wrong.
I read all the posts about the relative merits of this or that DAC etc. then I toddle off and try to listen to my CD collection (mainly classical) on either a Phillips CD PROLF with Tent clock, RAKK DAC + triode output stage, either a Quad 606 or the excellent Yaqin KT88 amp driving ESL63s or the same analogue stuff driven via a dedicated PC with an M Audio delta card, or I listen on headphones to my daughter's 15 Euro CD walkman.
Of my collection of mainly CDs, 99% are unlistenable. Not because the conductor's heart murmur interferes with the pianissimo passages etc. etc. but because there is undeniable, horrible mid-range distortion noticeable as harshness particularly on violins and chorale.
It is so bad that no-one can fail to notice it .
It isn't my ears because live music sounds fine. It isn't room resonance because a CD that sounds bad on the fancy system sounds the same on headphones via the 15 Euro walkman.
In the entire collection there are only two CDs that I can listen to without hating the sound, one is an RCA recording of Bach solo cello suites RD70950 recorded in 1979 and the other 'Les Travailleurs de la Mer' HMU907330 recorded in 2004.
I notice that many of the members seem to listen to modern music and, indeed, some of my daughter's CDs sound fine. It seems to be the challenge of full orchestra or many voices that causes the sound to fall apart.
If I use the Foobar equaliser to put a fairly massive notch filter in from 1.8 to 5 KHz I can stand most of the CDs but I know that's not the answer.
I feel frustrated because I'm not in the 'all CDs are crap' school. I'd like nothing better thn to sit down in the evening with a glass or two of wine and enjoy the music but I can't. I find myself saying 'they CAN'T sound this bad'
What is going on?
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Old 8th May 2008, 09:31 AM   #2
RAndyB is offline RAndyB  United Kingdom
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Location: Herefordshire
That is just the way things are!

I put on a CD of a symphony that I had heard live the night before (see the "End of the English Journey" post in the "Concerts" thread). The gap between live performance and reproduction is too large to bridge with a normal budget.

The shrieky stuff in midrange is the worst; but many people seem to tolerate it. Cello is quite easy to reproduce, and violin much more difficult.

Like the Harp Consort CD, BTW - listened to the MP3 clip.

Andy
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Old 8th May 2008, 10:07 AM   #3
AndrewT is offline AndrewT  Scotland
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overload in an amplifying stage maybe?
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Old 8th May 2008, 10:28 AM   #4
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Well, I'm glad I'm not alone (although from the previous total silence re this post I thought I must be).
I wonder if this gets worse with age and hearing damage.
I've got quite severe high frequency hearing loss - nothing above 10K - which means, maybe, that I concentrate unduly on the (very important) low mid frequencies and that makes the distortion less acceptable or more noticeable.

Someone from the US writing in another forum said words to the effect that 'there's nothing wrong with CDs that can't be cured by wrapping a few turns of burlap round the speakers'. How depressing
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Old 8th May 2008, 10:28 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by AndrewT
overload in an amplifying stage maybe?
Thanks for the suggestion, that is indeed what it sounds like and how I wish it was.
I am absolutely sure the problem is either on the CD or in the D/A conversion.
The odd thing is that it seems to be impossible to get rid of. OK my expensive RAKK dac sounds better that my daughter's walkman through the same amp and speaker system but the 'uneasy' sound is still there.
I don't have vinyl any more to compare but if I record the local band on my ancient Revox and play that back through the same system it sounds fine.
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Old 8th May 2008, 10:52 AM   #6
AndrewT is offline AndrewT  Scotland
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Hi,
I don't know how many stages are between the CD laser and the speakers, but if the "problem" is before the volume pot then adjusting volume will not affect the possible clipping.

The fact that you are reporting 99% of your CDs as faulty leads me to blame the amplifying stages, somewhere.
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Old 8th May 2008, 11:03 AM   #7
tinitus is offline tinitus  Europe
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I would say you may need better pre/power amps and maybe different cables

Maybe also better feet under your electronics and maybe some heavy plates beneath

You may have a difficult room in need of an equalizer...or room treatment

Have you tried to reverse phase on speaker terminals...correct phase on mains may matter too

Are you certain that your quad speakers are absolutely healthy
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Old 8th May 2008, 02:01 PM   #8
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Thanks.
The DAC feeds a Lundahl transformer which does the I2V bit then there's an Alps pot feeding a differential class A triode output buffer which goes straight to either a Quad 606 or the Yaqin (about which do not scoff!!).
I can reduce the digital signal level as well via Foobar, makes no difference.
I've just sorted out the earthing with a separate earth rod to which all the components are star wired.
Although I don't actually believe any of this stuff it did make a difference - the distortion is still there but the sound stage is more defined.
The interconnects are Qunex, speaker cable some very expensive OFC stuff I conned out of the Quad dealer as part of buying most of his stock some years ago.
The ESL's have had a hard life but the distortion is still there via a pair of Quad 77-11s or LS3/5as.
My headphones (Sennheiser HD280) can be driven directly from the triode buffer stage and I'm pretty sure I can hear the same distortion - but they really aren't of sufficient quality to be helpful.

There is an odd observation that I really don't understand - the distortion is worse on some occasions as if there's a sweet spot on the cat's whisker (those of you too young to know what that is are also too young to be spending hard earned cash on HiFi kit).
This doesn't appear to be blood alcohol related as one might expect . Living in France does encourage consumption of the Red Medicine and there's no doubt that the music sounds much better as the evening progresses but I can't cope with having to be permanently tiddly to enjoy my music and, anyway, it tends to lead to weepiness over the four last songs.
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Old 8th May 2008, 03:53 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by tinitus


You may have a difficult room in need of an equalizer...or room treatment

Have you tried to reverse phase on speaker terminals...correct phase on mains may matter too

Do you have a link to a thread or article on 'room treatment'?
I'm pretty sure the badness is coming out of the speakers, if I listen near to them I can hear the distortion and the distortion seems to come directly out of the speaker rather than being part of the sound stage. It sounds like a bad driver (but is the same on different speakers). Shame I can't post a .WAV for others to comment on.

Reversing polarity seems not to have any effect, I would have been surprised if it did but thanks for the suggestion.
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Old 9th May 2008, 07:23 AM   #10
RAndyB is offline RAndyB  United Kingdom
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Quote:
Originally posted by evetsfrance
tends to lead to weepiness over the four last songs.

If you will listen to R. Strauss...
(I just checked the translations)

The problem seems less acute on the only SACD that I have so far bought. I am still looking for a suitable DVD-A, which many people say is an almost acceptable format.

In addition to the well rehearsed discussions about Red Book CD quality, there is recording technique to contend with. We listen to an orchestra with ears a few centimetres apart from a distance of a few metres to a few tens of metres. Many CDs listen with many, many microphones at a metre or two from each instrument or voice. Not only is the sound qualitatively and quantitatively different when close-up, there must be all sorts of phase anomalies from stray pick-up of nearby instruments. The players can resolve this stuff, and anyway are listening for timing not for sound quality, we seem to have to put up with it as there are few well recorded CDs.

Andy
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