System Synergy Q&A
This section is created specifically to allow comments that do not pertain to any single component that I reviewed, or that otherwise don’t fit in a particular category, such as questions relating to overall system synergy.
Feel free to ask me anything and, time permitting, I will respond below.
my name is Emanuele and I am writing to you from Milan, Italy. Forgive me but due to my bad English I am forced to write to you with Google Translator. Despite being blind, I always read your articles and reviews of the various hi-fi devices with great interest, recognizing in them objectivity, competence and honesty of work. I have now decided to contact you for technical advice, hoping not to cause you too much trouble.
I start by describing my current system:
– Dedicated Windows PC source, fanless, separate linear power supply
– Dac Merging Nadac connected to the PC whit Ethernet cable
– Excellent almost unknown preamp, Vexo LP-PS mkII tube, two chassis, separate power supply
– Ampli D’Agostino Stereo Classic 1
– Tad R1 speakers
– PS Audio PP20 power regenerator (that I intend to replace with a Gigawatt PC-4 evo+).
Unfortunately I must say that the listening result is not in proportion to the costs of my equipment. I think this may be largely due to amplification. For better or for worse, the transparency of the Tads highlights every gap in the upstream setup. My idea is to rationalize and simplify the system, improving the refinement and if possible, reduce the number of boxes.
I read your flattering review on Aries Cerat products. Do you think that the integrated Aries Cerat Genus amplifier of only 25W can drive adequately Tad speakers? The latter have an efficiency of 90 db and an impedance ranging from 6 to 3.9 Ohm (theoretically not difficult load).
My listening room is about 6 x 5 x 2.70m and I listen at medium volume (I live in an apartment building).
Another question: do you think the Dac Aries Cerat Helena or the two Aqua acoustic combos FormulaXHD Rev 2 + Linkq (the latter well reviewed by you recently), can they improve the performance offered by my current Merging Nadac? In any case, I am convinced that the r2r technology gives more natural results than the classic Sabre, Burn-brown etc. chips. Obviously a lot depends on how the rest of the circuits are developed. This approach combined with no oversampling has always been the credo of Aquaacoustic.
Last chance, I could also evaluate the sale of the Tads, to finance a new project, which includes medium-high efficiency speakers, easily driven by a refined tube amplification such as the Aries Cerat.
My current tastes are increasingly oriented towards more qualitative listening, where attributes such as micro and macro dynamics, scene extension, silence and high resolution stand out. With Tad this is perhaps possible, but unfortunately with a very high budget.
I also enthusiastically read your review of the Wolf Won Langa Son, but unfortunately they did not fully convince me, due to the fact that you say that the voices have a slight nasality.
Other interesting speakers, even if I don’t know the exact dimensions of the horns, are the Horning Eufrodite Ellipse PM65. I therefore ask you to kindly suggest me, based on your listening experiences, any other speakers at a reasonable cost, perhaps to be looked for also in the used one, that they don’t make me regret my demanding Tads.
Unfortunately, as you will imagine, at present the current Covid situation combined with my disability greatly limit the possibility of listening in the store.
In conclusion, as you will have noticed my confusion and my doubts are many. In any case, thank you very much for your patience in reading this long letter of mine. Your every advice or suggestion will be precious to me.
Good luck for new year and good music.
Hi Emanuele, Can you elaborate on what it is when you mention that the listening result is not in proportion to the cost of your equipment? How do you experience this? What is it that you would ideally achieve? I assume you have selected the TADs after a successful demo somewhere. Do you recall what it was about them that attracted you? Ideally, I’d narrow down whether the speakers can stay or not and take it from there.
The Merging Nadac has a very robust and direct delivery but it can be a bit dry and to my ears it lacks refinement. I suspect that this DAC does not play ideally with the D’Agostino amplifier, assuming the stereo Classic sounds similar to the older Krell designs. Sorry, I have to guess as I have only heard the Momentum and Progression range of D’Agostino. Anyway, the Aqua Formula xHD sounds considerably more fluid and refined and I would say it is the better DAC (although the opinions on this vary). The Aries Cerat Helena is a superbly smooth, fluid, and refined sounding DAC but it’s not quite as articulate or as fast as the Aqua. But they are very different DACs anyway.
In my experience so far, often, no oversampling + no filtering and discrete R2R lead to the purest, most tangible and direct sound. However, not everyone will prefer the lack of thickness and smoothness that so many other DACs offer.
The Aries Cerat Genus has a warm and rich sound with smooth, round bass and good detail and transparency. It is a fascinating amp when combined with the right speakers but given that it is borderline powerful enough with the WvL SONs, my guess would be that it won’t be ideal for the TADs. Of course, Aries Cerat has bigger amplifiers but the cost goes up fast. Also, I’m hesitant to recommend any amplifier as long as I don’t know what it is you are looking for.
Alas, the observed nasality with the SONs is quite typical for many horn loudspeakers. If you are accustomed to the TAD’s linearity, then horns may not be the ideal next road for you unless you decide to focus on other aspects of the sound.
In closing, please supply some more details as to what it is that you like, don’t like, and what you want to achieve. Then, I can hopefully provide more specific advice.
first thank you for your quick reply.
I will therefore try to answer all your various questions, also indicating what my sonic preferences are.
I start by saying that I bought the Tad R1 mk1 after a fascinating listening in a shop outside Milan.
The system for the occasion consisted of CH Precision amplifications (L1 preamp with X1 external power supply, M1 mono amps). Unfortunately I do not remember what the source was.
The operation was possible because the loudspeakers for sale were a demo model, and at the same time the shopkeeper took away all my old system consisting of:
Bryston streamer + dac, Emm labs Pre2 preamp, Vac phi200 amp, Sigma Acoustic Titan B2 speakers and various cables.
My naivety was perhaps to believe that the demanding Tads in my house could sound as good as in the shop, even if in a smaller environment (30 m2), and driven by more equipment.
modest compared to super CH.
Mind you, I can’t say that the system is bad, but knowing the great potential of these speakers, I can certainly say that right now they are expressing themselves at 60% of their real capabilities.
The shortcomings and defects of the system are from my point of view mainly of a timbral character. The Merging dac is very transparent, but as you say yourself, it has a rather dry sound and in my opinion, a bit too light bass.
I agree with you that it lacks a bit of refinement, especially if it works with switching power.
If, on the other hand, it is fed with a good linear power supply, the situation improves significantly.
The D’Agostino does not have a great resolution, it lacks a bit of refinement on the high frequencies and its bass is not very articulate.
Of course, to eliminate these defects it would be enough to turn to the Momentum S250, but the latter obviously has a price more than double compared to the Classic Stereo!
Nothing to say instead about the surprising Vexo LP-PS mk2 preamplifier, which with its speed, transparency and general balance, was clearly preferred to the Audio Research Ref 6, which by comparison was more euphonic (fake) and which tended to enlarge and dilate the image beyond what is needed.
In recent years I have tried and purchased various devices, without however ever being able to obtain a general equilibrium in the system, and results proportional to the overall expenditure made, due to the various buying and selling operations.
This explains the meaning of my statement: “the result of listening is not proportionate to the cost of my equipment”.
To make a fair comparison, I could identify with a mountaineer who tries to reach the top of the mountain, but despite all the efforts made and the changes of equipment, he never manages to reach his goal.
Among the various tests carried out, I would like to point out one in particular made with a now old Accuphase A60 amp from a friend. The result was somewhat surprising.
More than good resolution, correct timbre, especially listening to the piano was very beautiful and credible.
Unfortunately, however, this amp lacked dynamics and veered towards dark tones.
It was also very instructive to be able to read the value of its delivered power through the amp display, during an entire listening session.
It was quite surprising to find that even at a high volume level, 2 Watts of continuous power were never exceeded.
This is the reason why I asked you the question, if the Aries Cerat Genus amp despite its only 25W, but thanks to its massive transformers and its robust power supply, could easily drive the Tads.
I agree with you that a greater reserve of power can help, but as you rightly say, to get there, the price to pay would be much greater.
Regarding the type of sound I prefer and the listening parameters that I consider fundamental, I consider the timbre, the dynamics and the ability to reconstruct a correct sound image to be equally important.
Timbre: each instrument or voice must be reproduced as faithfully as possible with respect to the original, i.e. exactly as captured during the recording of the live or studio event.
For example, I am very excited to listen to a well-reproduced piano. On this aspect I am quite sensitive because playing the instrument personally, I would not bear to listen to an unlikely or false sound.
Dynamics: the music must not be flat, if the recording is not compressed, the “piano” and the “forte” must be perceived and distinguished as much as possible. It is therefore necessary to be able to grasp even the smallest nuances and breaths of music even at low listening volume.
Image: I really appreciate a reproduction system that manages to create a large sound front, which extends in all directions, and which tends to make the speakers disappear, preventing the exact source of sound emission from being identified.
Obviously with regard to this aspect, a lot depends on the listening environment.
A last aspect concerns the reproduction of the bass. For me it is not entirely necessary that it reaches the 20 Hz of the lower range, but the important thing is that it is fast, well articulated and that it harmonizes with the rest of the sound frequency bands.
So put it another way, I don’t like a slow, soft and not very rhythmic bass.
I realize that the ideal of sound just described is difficult to achieve in full measure. My goal, but I think that of all music lovers, is to get as close as possible to it.
I think that in my case, the simplest and most natural way to go is that of trying to satisfy the demanding and exciting Tads, supporting them as much as possible with partners of equal quality. However, given my past experiences, unless you are able to do a magic by recommending suitable devices at fairly reasonable prices, I fear that this is an option that is further costly economically.
If you can possibly propose me some different amplification solution
and sources that match well with Tad, even in different price ranges, I will evaluate them with a lot of interest and attention.
In case you exclude the integrated amplifier,
opting for the two chassis instead, I could happily keep my beloved Vexo preamp, focusing only on the power amp.
A second possibility, more difficult and with an unpredictable result, would be to sell the Tads and the rest of the components, to finance a new project from scratch.
In this case, I would exclude the horn loudspeakers for their not easy placement in the room and for the typical characteristics you described, and I would instead focus on easy to drive loudspeakers, slightly smaller than the Tads, of medium efficiency (92 – 96 db real) and linear impedance that does not fall below 4 Ohms.
I realize that with these technical constraints the search range can be very limited.
However, if you can find one or more speakers with these characteristics, it should be simpler and less expensive to amplify it properly.
At this point this second option would be absolutely feasible and I would like it.
I sincerely apologize for the length and verbosity of this email of mine, but I have tried to send you as much useful information as possible.
Nevertheless, I imagine it will not be easy for you to give me such important and demanding advice, on the basis of indications that are necessarily generic and extensive.
Aware of this, I will listen carefully to any useful suggestions you can give me.
Thanks as always for your great patience and availability.
I hope you won’t mind me chiming in based on your listed speaker needs a speaker you should audition is the Audio Note AN-E. High sensitivity, benign impedance, full range, and I suspect it would pair magically with the Aries Cerat Genus Christian recommended. And Christian I hope you don’t mind me making a suggestion.
Thanks for the advice Jon,
honestly, I’ve never listened to the Audionotes.
If in terms of resolution, timbral coherence and transparency I did not regret the Tad,
they would certainly be a valid alternative.
I will learn more about the model you are talking about.
Have a good evening,
Just check the way Christiaan sets up his speakers in his room.
Also important, try not to put any of furniture between your speakers and your listeningchair. That way you do influence the stereoimage. And last but not least a big mistake people make, never listen in a chair of which the back of the chair is surrounding your ears. This way you create bad bounderies and echo’s around your ears. The sound will reflect all around your head. So support till your neck is ok.
I hope this will help as well with set up instructions. It’s all basics but people trend to not know or forget.
Thanks Siert for your very wise advice.
I fully agree with everything you say. It is precisely to avoid the mistakes made in the past that I decided to seek advice from an experienced and capable professional like Christiaan, or other kind users of his site as it is in your case.
I can therefore tell you that my room is approximately 30 m2 (6.5 x 4.8 x 2.70 m).
The speakers are necessarily placed on the long side and the distance between them is exactly 2.8m from tweeter to tweeter, while the external space between the speakers and the side walls is about 1.8m.
Unfortunately I could not give them much rear space, placing them at a distance of 80 cm measured between the rear of the speaker and the back wall. The tweeter is therefore located approximately 1.5 m always in reference to this wall.
In this way I was able to create the traditional almost equilateral triangle with respect to the listening point.
Over the course of time I then carefully performed some small but significant shifts that led me, for example, to reduce the inclination of the Tads with respect to the central listening point.
In fact, now they are only slightly inclined. The side image has thus increased and the scene is now more extended than in the old setup.
As for the furnishings of the room, I would say that they are optimal.
Medium-thick curtains on the windows, two large carpets on the floor, sofa with large cushions, open side bookcase (without glass), a long and massive piece of furniture, a piano (far from the hi-fi) and on the walls two large 120 cm paintings x 120cm for audio use, with a 5cm thick woven coated frame.
The electronic table, necessarily positioned in the center between the speakers, has very thick and heavy shelves and all the large support legs are made of steel filled with lead shots and all have decoupling tips.
Ultimately I think the acoustics in my room are pretty good. Big Tads work pretty well in this environment.
The bass is also surprisingly fast and controlled, and there is no boom.
The nice thing is that they can function as two large monitors, even at low volumes you can listen pleasantly and you can appreciate the smallest details.
But of course, the big Tads here are like two lions in a cage. If positioned in a more suitable environment, say from 50 m2 upwards,
they would be able to reach crazy dynamics and sonic pressures without any effort or any kind of distortion.
Also for this reason in my previous letter I said that the Tads in my home are used at 60% of their potential.
Hi Siertos and Emanuele, just for what it’s worth, my room has some peculiarities (complex room modes) which necessitate placement of any dynamic speakers nearly halfway into the room, at 3.22m from the front baffle to the front wall, 3.76m from the rear wall, and 3.25m in a straight line to my ears. But this should in no way be interpreted as a guide, it’s merely how I cope with my particular room that is actually far from ideal. But with this setup at least I obtain a pretty flat curve with very little coloration. Dipole speakers such as Apogees, Magnepans, Dyptique, and other magnetostatics can be placed much closer to the rear wall without exciting negative room modes. The further back, the more they do excite a very low mode but for most dipole speakers, that’s actually mostly beneficial.
Hi Siertos and Emanuele, just for what it’s worth, my room has some peculiarities (complex room modes) which necessitate placement of any dynamic speakers nearly halfway into the room, at 3.22m from the front baffle to the front wall, 3.76m from the rear wall, and 3.25m in a straight line to my ears. But this should in no way be interpreted as a guide, it’s merely how I cope with my particular room that is actually far from ideal. But with this setup at least I obtain a pretty flat curve with very little coloration. Dipole speakers such as Apogees, Magnepans, Diptyque, and other magnetostatics can be placed much closer to the rear wall without exciting negative room modes. The further back, the more they do excite a very low mode but for most dipole speakers, that’s actually mostly beneficial.
Hi Jon, on the contrary, chiming in is always appreciated:-)
The most important information I miss in your detailed story is HOW ARE YOUR SPEAKERS POSTIONED IN YOUR ROOM!!! It is utterly profound to put lots of energy in the interaction with your room. What I notice in lots of rooms is that the most people even with very expensive equipment have no idea how to set up a system and then specifically the speakers. They put them in the corners close to the side walls and almost build in the front walls 😬😬🙏🙏. Next, the often very huge poor non audio racks or big furniture right between the speakers and on top of the furniture a big flatscreen TV far to close to the system. Very bad acoustics. An audiorack is also a component and should be considered as the same importance. The most people have a room that is far to small for big systems. Is as logical as it is. Speakers need to breath. Pull them far away from the front walls and side walls and certainly far in front of your system. That way you also create a visual space behind your speakers. Your brain and your eyes wil focus different and you will experience this way a much better Soundstage. If people don’t know how to set up I don’t understand people buy expensive stuff. They think when I buy top notch equipment it will always sound optimal. No way in a room with limited space, bad acoustics and above all very poor set up. Move the speakers away from boudaries and let them breath. It is so easy. Maybe there is a partner in the game which might it make difficult to set up way you wish. The biggest mistake is change to even better and more expensive speakers for improvement but not changing the bad habit the improvement will be none. Waiste of money. Your TADS are top speakers and reviewed worldwide truly profound. But these huge speakers with their charataristics need space all around them. Also you need a long room for these with their monstrous bass!! I wish you good luck with your High End audio YOURNEY.
Hi Emanuele, thanks for the additional information, it paints a good picture! Knowing that you initially heard the R1’s with an all-CH system tells me a lot:-). Switching from the Classic Stereo D’Agostino to the Momentum will certainly help in terms of refinement and fluidity but if it’s the articulation, ultra-resolution, and quickness of CH that you are after, then no D’Agostino amp will do the trick.
The AC Genus will certainly drive the Tads but it has an inherently full and romantic sound and although it provides an emotionally alluring presentation it is definitely not an amplifier that I would recommend if you like your bass to be fast and tight. Its 25 Watts won’t be a real issue unless you play very loudly. Yes, the Accuphase’s meters may only show 2 Watts but I think they average out the signal and do not indicate very fast dynamic transients which can easily be tenfold when you’re listening a little bit more loudly. But now knowing your preferences, I would not recommend a tube power amplifier to you.
So, what will be the solution? That’s still a difficult one to judge remotely. Besides a mismatch with your equipment, there might also be one or more issues with the room or the speaker positioning. Bypassing the latter possibility and assuming you have already tried moving the speakers more from the rear- and side walls, I would advise to get a CH Precision A1.5 on a listening test. That’s the easiest and quickest way to see if that gets you more in the direction that you want to go. Honestly, I think this is one of the very best amplifiers that I have heard. If this is not a possibility, then you could try – don’t laugh – a NuPrime AMG-STA. Please read my review for the specifics but in short, it is an amazing Class A+D power amplifier with tight bass as well as superb refinement. It is not a CH but since it is voiced similarly, in lieu of the actual CH product, it will confirm if that direction would work for you. And it may surprise you. Third option is Analog Domain.
On the DAC front, I can recommend Aqua Formula xHD for its superb balance between precision and musicality, the Denafrips Terminator for its benchmark-setting transparency and precision, MolaMola Tambaqui for a slightly sweeter and gentler, but still very precise and transparent sound not too far removed from the Aqua’s. The Aqua DAC and MolaMola DACs have the most natural timbre. The Denafrips is leaner and tonally less saturated but incredibly neutral, and importantly, not synthetic/artificial.
On the subject of more sensitive and easy-to-drive speakers, I have not much experience but I can recommend hearing the WvL SON. Knowing your preference I fear that their voluptuous bass may not be what you are looking for but otherwise, the speakers are very special and their utter musicality may prove illustrative. If power consumption is not an issue then you could look at closed-cabinet speakers (acoustic suspension). I have found that bass-reflex speakers often cause issues in non-ideal rooms. The main contenders are Magico and YG.
I hope this helps!
thanks for the various tips.
At this point my main idea is to try to make the Tads work in the best way possible for me.
Right now it would be really difficult for me to try other speakers.
First of all, as per your suggestion, I could try to amplify them with the Nuprime amg-sta, maybe in mono mode.
I read your two flattering reviews on these amps and I also got to hear Evolution One just out in the shop, so in a completely different context from mine.
I found them coherent and very neutral but in that setup, perhaps not very engaging.
However, I understand that amg-sta, despite the lower price, is preferred over the more expensive Evolution One.
If you believe that Nuprime mono is qualitatively superior to D’Agostino Classic, I could put the latter up for sale, buy two amg-sta, and with the remaining money improve the source department
(dac and possibly streamer).
Later when I decide to face a bigger expense, if necessary, I will try to select an amplification even more performing than the Nuprime, such as CH A1.5 for example.
Among other things, I have just purchased, and I am awaiting delivery of the Gigawatt PC-4 Evo + power conditioner.
Also this device should contribute to making all the electronics connected to it express better.
– Do you think the Nuprime couple can significantly improve D’Agostino?
– is the analog Domain M75 P or D in turn more performing than the Nuprime mono?
– lastly a friend suggested I try the hybrid integrated amplifier
Ypsilon Phaethon, of whom we speak very well. Do you happen to know this product?
Hi Emanuele, indeed, like you, I also did not find the Evo Ones to sound very engaging or exciting. Technically they do some things better but musically and emotionally, I prefer the AMG-STA’s. Now, would I say the AMG STA’s are “qualitatively superior” as you put it? That I can’t say, first because I have not directly compared them to a D’Agostino, and second, because it will remain a relative matter. I will say, however, that the AMG-STA’s will no doubt provide tighter bass and a much more agile and refined sound. I suggested them as an alternative for the CH not because they are equal but because they have similar qualities.
– Do you think the Nuprime couple can significantly improve D’Agostino? –> Given the goals you have set and in as far as I understand your current situation, I think for the most part it would be an improvement. Of course, an affordable Class-D amp does not completely outperform a big Class-AB amp on all accounts.
– is the analog Domain M75 P or D in turn more performing than the Nuprime mono? –> Yes, the AD has more natural timbre and is more controlled and explicit. Will you “like” it more than the AMG-STA? That is for you to find out.
– lastly a friend suggested I try the hybrid integrated amplifier
Ypsilon Phaethon, of whom we speak very well. Do you happen to know this product? –> Alas, I have not heard it.
Kindly allow me to take back this now outdated tread of ours.
As for amplification, I’ve finally narrowed the candidates down to just two integrated amps:
Audionet Humboldt and Analog Domain M75D mk2, with possible future upgrade of the latter with the addition of the M75P power amp.
I recently did a long listen to the Humboldt at a friend’s house, and it impressed me very positively, while in relation to the Analog Domain I can only rely on your beautiful and authoritative review.
So I ask you if you have had the opportunity to personally listen to Humboldt, or have you heard about it from your acquaintances.
If the answer is even partially positive, I would like to ask you according to your point of view, if and how the two aforementioned amps compare, and therefore if one is preferred to the other.
Clearly the Analog Domain as a price is definitely cheaper than the Humboldt, so with the same performance it would be preferred over the latter.
Finally I ask you if it is possible for you to give an opinion by comparing these
large integrated with your CH Precision A1.5 amp, assuming of course that the latter is paired with the right preamp.
I’m asking you this because from what I can understand, CH Precision is a bit like your current reference in terms of amplification.
Obviously the sale of my current copy preamp – final – Dac and various cables,
it would partially finance the new purchase.
In fact, I think that these integrated by now do not make us regret the two-frame solutions.
As always, I thank you for the help you can provide me.
Hi Emanuele, to be honest, I lack the time these days to go into anything not directly related to my reviews which means that I should probably lock the comments section of this thread. That said, I can tell you two things. First, a friend who owned the M75D Mk2 has switched to a CH i1 integrated amp and could not be happier. He says he’s still flabbergasted by the sound quality, it being gentler, more high-res, and more refined. Second, while I have not heard the Humboldt, but have heard very good things about it, and about Audionet in general. If given the option, I would go for the Humboldt myself. If you want to spend less, why not look at the brand’s less expensive pre-power solutions?
I would appreciate your opinion very much.
I have three modest systems.
In my bedroom a Marantz pm6006 amp with Marantz na 6006 streamer, NAD CD player; speakers are Dynaudio emit m20 2015.
Bedroom +- 25m2
In the living room a Gato Audio dia-250s npm, Marantz cd6006 with Dynaudio evoke 20.
And Marantz pm7000n with KEF ls50 meta speakers on the proper KEF stands.
Listening area = +- 27m2
Can you please give me any suggestions on how to improve my listening.
Hi Vitor, I’m sorry but that’s way too generic a question. I’ll need more of a handle as to what it is you like or don’t like or what you want to achieve and it’s also helpful to know which components you are considering.
Great idea! I have no specific questions unless you have a really cheap reliable source of NOS tubes? 😉
Hi Jon, Alas, a friend of mine did have a NOS tube store but he quit and I wouldn’t know of another reliable source.
if I remember correctly you said in one of your reviews that the sonic difference between balanced and single ended connections is in soundstage depth and width.
I was wondering, is this true in general or just the case with your CH Precision equipment?
Regards from Munich,
Hi Simon, indeed, I find that this is still true, even with true fully-balanced equipment such as CH. Balanced interlinks make the soundstage wider (and arguably flatter) while single-ended interlinks make it deeper (and arguably more narrow). This is why I ordered the AQ Fire interlinks in cinch versions even though the XLR versions have the exact same price.
Christiaan, i read in your articles that you own several older CD players, which are modded. Can you please elaborate in detail, what these mods exactly consist of, and what It does to the sound performance.
Hi Mark, I get more questions about this and I want to make a post about this but I simply lack the time to do so. Alas, there’s too much to say on the topic for a quick comment.