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cerchiamusic
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Recording distortion

I listen to classical music. I recently upgraded a couple of components in my system. (Amp and CD player.) I figured by upgrading I'd get better sound,as I was hearing some distortion. I have a pair of Paradigm Reference Studio 100s. I am now hearing alot of distortion coming from mainly the string section of the orchestra. It is consistent on almost every one of my CDs!(And when the full orchestra plays- forget it...)
The strings sound raspy...and almost unlistenable when the dynamic gets above a mp.
I am just sick. I upgrade to improve the sound and it makes my vast CD collection effectively unusable.
Has anyone had this experience? I took some CDs to a hi-end stereo store and played them there. The distortion was still there. The salesman told me I would just have to get used to listening to the distortion. These were recent Berlin Philharmonic Cds...supposedly high quality recordings.
I am at a loss of what to do. The joy of listening to classical music has been stolen from me.
HELP!

cerchiamusic
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recording distortion

I would add to the above, this-  What has been said to me basically is that I am now hearing the faults in the recordings clearer than I did before. What I find incredulous is that companies like EMI and London, Telarc, Deutsce Grammphon and the like, would record such AWFUL sounding CDs. Someone besides me would have complained long ago about this. Something else is going on and I am at a loss to know what.

michael green
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distortion

This may not be the recordings at all. If your system is squeezing (many do) the upper harmonics there is a distortion that takes place that is very noticable. A lot of people over the years have passed this distortion off as a recording problem but it is actually in the playback of the system if the components (any parts) are not letting the signal vibrate along the signal path in tune.

It's typical in the hobby to see a lot of listeners only choosing a few pieces of music to listen to because they happen to sound good, even great, on their system, but then other recordings sound not so good. Kinda sounding squeezed or buzzing at the top end. This is a problem that can be fixed but it takes some doing and rethinking the system to do so. I've been writing here now for a little while and bit by bit I'm seeing these problems surfacing.  It's a design problem in components as much as anything. Products do not have to be out of compatibility (out of tune) with each other by very much to have this happen, and it happens throughout the entire audio chain, even acoustically. If you would like we could walk through your system and find where this is happening and why. Here's where I hang out tuning systems http://tuneland.techno-zone.net/ . You can visit us there or I think it's only a matter of time that we will explore this more hopefully on this forum.

be happy to help you with this

michael green

MGA/RoomTune

cerchiamusic
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Distortion

Dear Mr. Green,

At your gracious invitation I have gone to your web site, registered and emailed you some specifics on my stereo equipment. I pray you are able to help me.

Thank you so much!

Richard Cerchia

michael green
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great!

I'll be happy to help and invite anyone who wants to come along for the ride to jump onboard. It would be great if we also do some of these types of things here. There's a ton of people listening to distortion, many who are not even knowing it is distortion. Your ears nailed it though and that's a great start.

 

michael green

MGA/RoomTune

wkhanna
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One man's distortion is another man's detail.....

I am not trying to make light of Richard's dilemma, but it brought to mind a certain add from MBL that I simply found hilarious.......

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfbRKmCHdK8

Catch22
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Heh!

MBL certainly demonstrated that they understand our disease. lol

commsysman
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Distortion

For many years I had a number of recordings that had this problem of massed strings sounding nasty.

Two in particular were various recordings of the opening of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #1, and the opening part of a Mozart Horn Concerto.

There were also several other discs that i could name that sounded a bit nasty, but out of 1400 discs we are only talking about 20 or so.

I don't know what was causing this to be an issue in your system, but the problem has become less and less in my system as I have made improvements to my system, and the problem is now gone. I had some fairly good equipment, but obviously not good enough to eliminate that distortion in those recordings.Those same recordings that sounded nasty and distorted before sound very good now, so the recordings were not at fault.

One major improvement occured when I went to Vandersteen Treo speakers; that was very significant. 

Another major improvement was when I went to the Musical Fidelity M6PRX power amplifier.

I will guarantee you that the main fault is NOT with the CDs. I suspect that your new amplifier is not doing a good job of driving your speakers, and that may be the main source of the distortion.

Another was when I went to the OPPO BDP-95 CD/SACD player, which clearly sounds better than almost any other player for under $3000.

I am sure that there are other speakers and components that also have exceptionally low distortion, but I have listened to many and have not found any to equal what I have for any comparable price.

I would strongly urge you to get an OPPO BDP-105 player however; it is a bargain at $1200, and is literally the state-of the-art. It and the BDP-95 have SABRE DACS that are ultra-low-distortion devices.

I am curious what your amplifier and preamp are, also.

michael green
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distortion

There's a lot of distortion in this hobby and even more a lack of how and what distortion is and how to solve it. I'm glad to see it said "NOT the CD's". This is a very important statement! Thousands in this hobby get in that blame game and can't find their way out. Changing system after system and blaming recordings for distorting when it's not the recording at all is not the fix. With every system at some time you are going to hear something stick out and make a distortion. This is not the recording but something in your setup that is not getting along with another part of your system. It can happen in any part of the audio trilogy (acoustical, mechanical, electrical) and you can fix one distortion only to uncover another.

The more simple your system is the less places there are for distortions to happen. Distortions in the tone, runaway notes or soundstage size can all be found and corrected.

michael green

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cerchiamusic
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Distortion

Thank you for the responses. As I said earlier, I am a composer- I.E. I am poor.

Thus I do not have the funds to pay thousands for components. This is not a hobby to me. Its part of who I am. I find it disheartenng that good sound seems to be a rich man's game. 

I have the following equipment:

Speakers- Paradigm Refernce Studio 100s Truely the biggest investment in my sysytem. (I got them on sale)

Integrated Amp- Yamaha A-s500

Cd Player- Cambridge Audio Topaz CD10

Headphones- Sennheiser HD600

If its not workable to get rid of the unwanted distortion with what I have, I guess I am hosed and might just as well sell all my CDs. I can't listen to them this way. I pray this is not the case. 

Catch22
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Do you listen to your system loudly?

I doubt that the problem lies within the source material (cds). Not because there aren't a lot of crappy recordings, there are, but if most all of your music sounds bad on your sytem, then I would lean toward a system problem rather than a cd problem. You mentioned that you took your cds to a store and they sounded crappy on their systems as well. That puzzles me, but then I start thinking that maybe the cds are poor quality.

The first step, it would seem to me, is to discover whether or not the cds are the issue. I would take advantage of the cans you have and listen to the discs through them. That doesn't require spending money and needs to be determined with certainty.

I have some thoughts on your components, but I'm hesitant to bring them forward until it's determined whether it's a CD problem or a system problem that is the issue. My suspicions are that your components aren't very complimentary with one another, though all are quite capable standing alone and partnered with the right components.

The reason I ask how loudly you tend to listen to your music is related to your speakers and amp combination. Your speakers are quite demanding on the amplifier and they present a most unfriendly demand in a rather important frequency range. This variable would be removed listening to your cds via the cans and that's as good a place to start as any.

Chime back in and we can see if we can isolate the problem and suggest a possible path forward.

commsysman
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Amplifier Distortion
cerchiamusic wrote:

Thank you for the responses. As I said earlier, I am a composer- I.E. I am poor.

I have the following equipment:

Integrated Amp- Yamaha A-s500

Cd Player- Cambridge Audio Topaz CD10

I would rate your system as follows in terms of distortion/fidelity, on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being no distortion and 1 being horrible distortion):

Speakers- 7 or 8

Player- 6

Intgrated Amplifier- 2

I obviously have no idea what you may wish to spend, but if I was in your shoes I would be desperate to get rid of that awful amplifer. There is no doubt in my mind that it is 90% of your problem. Using that terriible amplifier with those excellent speakers is a crime.

I would recommend that you buy a Music Hall 15.3 amplifier from Audio Advisor for $549. That is one of the best amplifiers one can get for under $1000 IMO; I would give it a 6 or 7 rating, and with it in your system you should have much much nicer music.

Another very good one is the NAD C326BEE, which is the same price. If you could find a used NAD C325 or C326 that would also be good.

 

A little anecdote: In 1980 I bought the very first pair of Polk RTA12 Studio Monitors; they came straight from CES Las Vegas, where they were the demo speakers for Polk, to Absolute Audio in Santa Ana, CA where i bought them. I also bought a Yamaha 125-watt amplifier, their best at at the time, for $800 (like $2000 today) to drive them.

They absolutely sounded like shit with that amplifier; the distortion drove me up the wall, much like your current problem. Since the speakers sounded wonderful in the store, I knew that was not right. The store owner, Neil Sinclair, loaned me a NAD 3020 amplifier to try out. It sounded wonderful. I bought it, for $198, and took the Yamaha amplifier back to Federated Group for an $800 refund. This is where I first learned how awful Yamaha amplifiers tend to be. 

My experiences with Yamaha and Onkyo amplifiers and recivers over the years have only reinforced my highly negative opinion of them; IMO they are the worst!

wkhanna
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By the sounds from my 'sweet-spot'

By the sounds from my 'sweet-spot' (IOW, from my experience) it has become obvious that all recordings are NOT created equal. If distortion exists on the master due to issues or conditions during the recording process, no amount of 'tuning' will eliminate it. But this type of inherent distortion will be present on any system. Some systems may minimize it. Some may bring it to the forefront. Equipment that excels at detail & is true to the source material will often be categorized as unforgiving. I have heard many people comment after auditioning or purchasing new equipment that exhibits higher resolution & detail say the shortcomings of poorly recorded & compressed material is revealed to a greater extent. I recently auditioned the NAD M51 DAC in my own system & at my friend's who just added this unit to his home system. The NAD has way of 'softening' older & poorly engineered digital material that suffers from edgy, fingernails-on-a-chalkboard harshness. No, it does not eliminate it, the NAD just seems to make it less pronounced, more listenable, less fatiguing while still maintaining a V high level of detail. But if distortion exists on the source there is V little one can do to alleviate it.

The other obvious observation I have made is that all systems are not created equal (pure genius, right?). Getting the perfect combination of components & room characteristics that deliver the performance & qualities you are seeking is not easy. It can be a crap-shoot at times. I really don't know any other enthusiasts who have laid out a detailed plan of attack for achieving their goals. Most of us, myself included, started out just swapping & dmemo-ing equipment in the hope that some improvement is stumbled across. I think for most of us, trial & error is the primary way we go about in our attempts to construct a system with a cohesive synergy. And, in many cases, we rely on the opinions of those whose suggestions we, for some reason, have come to trust. Other than hearing different equipment in our systems, or in other systems, what other options are there? Developing a systematic, empirical approach is not something I have ever seen explained or performed, other than taking accurate in-room measurements & comparing each change both by measurements & by ear.

Getting back to the OT, simply acquiring more-expensive equipment is no guarantee of improved performance. Also, the specific type of distortion being described (that of massed strings) is one I think many of us may be familiar with. It is a real-world acoustic sound that is often quite difficult for any stereo to reproduce faithfully. In fact, it is often used as a litmus test for evaluating performance. I know many have reported varying degrees of success utilizing some form of DSP (Digital Signal Processing) provided by an ever-increasing number of products appearing on the market. My personal philosophy may be seen as puritanical, but I see DSP as treating the symptom, not the cause. But many of us are limited by our domestic living arrangements & the compromise required by SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed). I tried putting my speakers in the middle of the living room once. Just once. However, Christmas is a compromise i can live with easily. While the season requires my speakers are closer together than preferable, and thus resulting in a narrowing of the sound stage, having a live, 9 foot evergreen in the corner does absolutely amazing things to the bass response in my listening room. It is sometimes quite difficult to determine if the source of the problem is equipment or room related. Experimentation is the only way I know how to approach the problem.

Catch22
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Did a quick search on your Yamaha amp

The Yamaha seems to get decent feedback from reviewers and users so I pulled up the manual for the amp to check out some of the specs. The amp has a feature that is similar to receivers that offer multiple speaker outputs. Of particular importance and concern in your case, given how difficult a load your speakers present to the partnered amplifier, utilizing the "low" impedence selector switch on the back of the amp is crucial.

I would also caution you about running ANY additional speakers while using your  paradigms.

You might still get by using the amp, though it isn't a very good partner for difficult loads like your speakers, if you don't push it too hard and you use the "low" selection. If it gets too hot to the touch or begins to switch off by itself, you'll know you have pushed it past its limits, which certainly wasn't designed with current gobbling speakers like yours in mind.

I would also use the "pure direct" mode when listening to your discs.

 

A much better partner for those speakers would be a "high current" amplifier. High current amplifiers have the ability to deliver more current into difficult loads, like your Paradigms. Btw, your Paradigms dip to 2.4 ohms and remain below 4 ohms for most of the midrange of frequencies...which is where most of the music is continually playing and where a lot of energy is required from the amplifier. High current amplifiers are designed for this...yours is designed to deliver quick peaks of energy, but not sustaining levels of current under such a demanding load.

 

I think it would still be useful to try your cans with your discs and see if the discs sound better. If they don't, it won't be because the amp is having a hard time driving them. lol

On a happier note, don't fret too much about any of this stuff. You can get the sound right without spending a lot of money. Hell, you might be able to sell the amp on ebay and buy an amp on audiogon or ebay without losing a dime...if that ends up being the case. But, don't spend any money without knowing where the issue is.

 

michael green
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very few recordings

I have found very few recordings that can not be tuned. Some might remember (maybe you don't know) I tune recordings for a living, have for over 35 years. I've heard a lot of distortion in electronic components regardless of price or reputation.  Many people have a system or part of a system or a part inside of a system that is causing blockage (mainly) of the signal, and the recording is very rarely the blame.

If you look at reviews of me doing this you will see that we would start with a recording that was problematic for the reviewer or listener and put it in-tune. I read a lot of reviews on recordings and they sometimes miss the boat completely because their system was not able to play it. The recording gets panned and music lovers miss out as a result.

michael green

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wkhanna
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My last post was put up

My last post was put up before I saw the equipment had been listed.

If we are to assume the CD's are not flawed, I will venture a guess based on my experience that a signifiacnt amount of the 'distortion' (massed strings, etc.) is the result of the pre-amp section in the Yamaha.

Catch22's recommendation of using the 'pure direct' setting is V good advice.

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I had a similar problem

My first system had infinity Kappa 8.1s which were notorious power hogs and even though I was bi-am ping the, with 2 100w high current Carver Amps.  However, the Amps weren't capable of dealing with a sustained impedance below 4ohms and I got distortion, overheating amps and blown fuses.  

The issue is not the amount of power, but the ability of the amp to deal with the 2 ohm impedance.  If you can still return the Yamaha, you may want to consider it.  If you can't, that's okay.  It does have line level outputs so you should be able to use it as a pre-amp.  I would then save up and buy a new power-amp or hunt on e-bay or audiogon for a used power amp that can deliver the power you need.  

commsysman
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Dump that Amplifier.

Get a better amplifier and solve your problem.

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Distortion

I suspect things are a little bit more complicated and less analyzable than perhaps we imagine. In my opinion almost all systems, regardless of size, cost or compilation, exhibit very noticeable distortion when the lounge is pushed up above the normal listening level. Now I can certainly understand why some might feel strongly that this distortion is a result of clipping, speaker distortion or electronic distortion found in the preamp and or amps. I am assuming a properly set up cartridge, obviously an improperly set up one could produce mucho distortion. Moving right along, we have found that room acoustics is another source of distortion, especially at higher volumes, such things as comb filter effect, slap echo and other room anomalies take center stage.

 

But moving beyond room acoustics, we have found any number of newer devices further lower the distortion, devices such as SteinMusic Harmonizer, Harmonix Enacom, a bunch of Audio Magic and Acoustic Revive devices such as Schumann Frequency Generator and Audio Pulse Gen ZX, not to mention a raft of new products from Synergistic Research, WA quantum Chips and products that incorporate crystals. Some of these new products operate via the usual mechanisms, you know, acoustic waves, RFI/EMI, but others we're not so sure about, e.g., the Schumann Frequency Generator and the SteinMusic Harmonizer. I won't even broach the subject of things that are independent of the audio system, house wiring and room acoustics. Things that cannot be measured. Things like Silver Rainbow Foil and Cream Electret. Anyone who doesn't see the big can of worms this last category opens up please raise your hand.

 

Geoff Kait Machina Dynamica

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An option

Those are not average speakers and are going to require above average equipment to power them.  Here are some suggestions that are 100% certain to work.  

For new equipment, you might consider the Parasound Classic 2125 Power Amp at $795.  It is the least expensive amp I know of that can deliver the performance that you need.  They make a preamp that goes with it for $695.  I know that is 3x what you paid for the Yamaha but it will deliver.  They are available from AudioAdvisor.  

If you look for used equipment, Parasound classic and halo amps will deliver what you need.  If you can find a refurb, a Carver TFM-35 will work well but it must be refurbed.  I can't emphasize it must be refurbed enough though.  Any 2 channel power amp that has a THX certification will be able to handle those speakers.  Hitting 2 ohms is part of the certification.  It doesn't mean that an amp that isn't THX certified can't deliver 2 ohms.  Not every manufacturer seeks out that THX certification, but anyone that does have it can deliver.  

If you can't return the Yamaha, it will work as a pre-amp for any of the above.  If you can, there are lots of good preamps available used.  I don't know of a new ones that is less expensive than the Parasound.  Not everyone loves Parasound so the nice thing about AudioAdvior is the 30 day return policy.  

wkhanna
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Sorry if i missed the details

Sorry if i missed the details in the previous posts, but.....

Just exactly what model of Paradigm Ref Studio 100s does the OP have?

What SPL level is the OP trying to achieve?

Catch22
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This is why I suggested listening through the cans
wkhanna wrote:

Sorry if i missed the details in the previous posts, but.....

Just exactly what model of Paradigm Ref Studio 100s does the OP have?

What SPL level is the OP trying to achieve?

And why I asked how loudly he listens to his music. Hearing the distortion on the systems at the store still puzzles me, but we don't know what kind of systems the store was using for his listening. Perhaps it was the same amplifier driving the same speakers and presenting the same problem? Dunno yet.

I used JA's measurments in his review measurements of the speakers, but, as you point out, the versions may make a difference. However, and I find this rather troubling, Paradigm states in their specifications that they are "8 ohm compatible." Even if you take into account that they are reasonably sensitive, I see  nothing in JA's measurements that would suggest they are 8 ohm compatible.

Can you imagine trying to run these off the 8 ohm taps of a tube amplifier? Which is what the manufactuer's words would suggest is just fine.

Catch22
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Here is the relevant data from Stereophile

Sidebar 1: Specifications Description: Three-way, five-driver, floorstanding, reflex-loaded loudspeaker. Drive-units: 1" aluminum-dome tweeter, 6.5" mica-polymer-dome midrange, three 7" filled polypropylene-cone woofers. Crossover frequencies (slopes): 300Hz (third-order), 2kHz (third-order). Frequency response: 44Hz-22kHz, ±2dB on-axis. Low-frequency extension (DIN): 28Hz. Sensitivity: 88dB/2.83V/m anechoic, 91dB in-room. Impedance: 8 ohms compatible. Recommended amplifier power: 15-350W. Maximum input power: 210W (typical program source, clipping no more than 10% of the time). Dimensions: 44.5" (113mm) H by 8.25" (21mm) W by 17" (432mm) D. Weight: 81 lbs each (36.8kg). Serial numbers of units reviewed: 32005 & 6. Price: $2300/pair. Approximate number of dealers: 350. Manufacturer: Paradigm Electronics Inc., 101 Hanlan Road, Woodbridge, Ontario L4L 3P5, Canada. Tel: (905) 850-2889. Fax: (905) 850-2960. Web: www.paradigm.com.

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michael green
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hold the phones

Guys

Before you go too far down your pathes the OP is hearing this through his headphones as well and while listening to his Finale program. I invite you to take a peek and join in if you wish. http://tuneland.techno-zone.net/t230-cerchiamusic-s-system#3784

michael green

MGA/RoomTune

Catch22
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I read his comments over at your site

At some point, I hope he gets the gumption to try a tube buffer stage. I think he would enjoy a tube system, but if he doesn't have the means, well, he's probably not going to find a lot of blissful listening sessions. You might suggest that he leave his system playing continually at low volume when he's away so as to get everything settled in. New cables, amp and player sure can suck for a week or so, but I don't think that is his ultimate fix. Tara Labs makes the most harmonically pleasant cables I've ever listened through if he starts going that route.

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