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floydianpsyche
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Tube Preamp Suggestion

Hello Folks,

This is my friend's current system
CDP: Rotel RDV 1045
Preamp: Rotel RC1070
Power amp: Rotel RB 1080
Speakers: Monitor Audio GR20

He thinks his system is very forward sounding and does not resolve the music to his expectations. He is looking for a softer sound with more resolution. He thinks if he upgrades his preamp to a good tube preamp he will be able to get what he wants. Do you guys think thats the way to go. If so could you please advice on what sub $3000 tube preamp he should try. If not could you recommend what other components he should try to upgrade.

Thanks for the help.

judicata
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Re: Tube Preamp Suggestion

As I've said several times, I'm no speaker guru. But for a $3000 budget, might it not be wiser to try different speakers, since they tend to influence the sound the most?

The only tube pre I have any significant experience with is my Woo Audio WA2, but if your friend isn't wanting a headphone amp as well, much of it would be a bit of a waste. Although, for that budget, you could get WA5LE with a pre out.

jackfish
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Re: Tube Preamp Suggestion


Quote:
very forward sounding

This could be used to describe the Monitor Audio GR20s. For $3000 he could get a pair of Vandersteen 2Ce Signature II loudspeakers ($2345/pair) to go with those components.

Jan Vigne
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Re: Tube Preamp Suggestion


Quote:
This is my friend's current system
CDP: Rotel RDV 1045
Preamp: Rotel RC1070
Power amp: Rotel RB 1080
Speakers: Monitor Audio GR20


Quote:
He thinks his system is very forward sounding and does not resolve the music to his expectations.

Given his equipment choices, "forward" is to be expected. I suppose he didn't think this when he bought the gear?

What you're asking for is a BandAid for a poorly pieced together system. "Tube sound" is not a BandAid.

You haven't said anything about his cable selection, room treatment or system set up and speaker placement. It would be better to work with what he has and get the best sound possible from the existing equipment before he dumps more money into something that shouldn't be put together.

When he says the system "does not resolve the music to his expectations", what are his "expectations"? Does he have a reference to use for this judgement? Does he listen to live music or is he just unhappy with the equipment he purchased?

floydianpsyche
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Re: Tube Preamp Suggestion


Quote:

You haven't said anything about his cable selection, room treatment or system set up and speaker placement. It would be better to work with what he has and get the best sound possible from the existing equipment before he dumps more money into something that shouldn't be put together.

When he says the system "does not resolve the music to his expectations", what are his "expectations"? Does he have a reference to use for this judgement? Does he listen to live music or is he just unhappy with the equipment he purchased?

Thanks for the advice so far folks, here are the answers to your questions...

1) His room is acoustically treated.
2) He is using Audioquest cables. I will find out the model.
3) He has paid attention to speaker placement to the best possible within his living space. For now the speakers are firing along the length of the room. He has played with and optimized the listening position, distance between speakers and toe in.

The reference he is using is a system comprising of Audio research reference components and Magnepan MG20s. I understand that his reference is really high end. But he is just trying to make his current system sound better.

jackfish
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Re: Tube Preamp Suggestion
mrlowry
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Re: Tube Preamp Suggestion

I've listened to all of the brands and suprisingly models you've mentioned (though not together of course) extensively and to my ears:

Monitor Audio: Very Bright to very, very bright
Rotel: Brighter than average (though not overwhelmingly so)
Audioquest: very close to perfectly neutral but their stuff does error slightly (and I mean very slightly) to the bright end of the spectrum depending on model. The better it is the smother it becomes from Audioquest.

I agree with Jan's sentiment that the brightness bordering on harshness was inevitable. It would be pervasive enough that say changing the cables would be far too small of a band aid to even make a dent in the problem.

How long has the friend owned the system? Can he work with the dealer to return, exchange, or trade in some of the stuff without a huge financial hit? Have him ask and explain his reasons why. Dealers are many times more generous than customers think they will be. A good dealer is a greal ally. My main target would be the speakers. Adding "warmth" by changing to and outrageously colored preamp is a huge step in the wrong direction (what happens when something else gets changed, upsetting the balance again?) As the old saying goes, "Two wrongs don't make a right." To other appropriate option would be to change the preamp AND amp, but that's more expensive.

RGibran
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Re: Tube Preamp Suggestion

This equipment is not THAT bright and in fact has been recommended by some responders who are claiming so. And one mans bright is anothers rolled off. And

Jan Vigne
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Re: Tube Preamp Suggestion

"Acoustically treated" doesn't imply acoustically "well treated". Firing into the length of the room means his speakers are placed closer to the side walls than if he had the system working into the short dimension of the room. There are trade offs for either set up and neither is necessarily correct if he only has another system as a comparison point.

Does your friend have a dealer he can work with in this problem?

From the information you've provided there still isn't any reason to think there is not more to be had with the present system. Unless your friend is dead set on changing equipment just for the sake of buying something, then that would still be my approach to this situation.

The biggest problem I see is unrealistic expectations. Your friend has no reference, he has another system as a comparison. That is a poor way to make decisons when your budget doesn't stretch as far as what you are using for comparison sake. In this case the presentational style of the two systems is dissimilar to the point of making comparisons virtually impossible. So, without any real world reference he would like to make his system sound like one that costs several times more than his and has a more musical balance to its personality - and he will still be comparing a system to a system and not to anything that doesn't reflect the source material played and the room it is played in. This then becomes a crap shoot of what to change and then hope for the best roll of the dice.

This is not the most intelligent way to piece together a top notch system.

IMO the basic problem your friend faces is a system that has a personality he doesn't like or at least no longer likes. You've not said whether he auditioned any of this equipment before he made a purchase or whether he intends to audition any prospective new purchase or whether he will just go with a suggestion from someone he's never met and who has never heard from him to gather information.

Since he doesn't really know what he likes other than he doesn't like what he owns, in this case I would suggest the most direct path to changing the system's personality - change the speakers.

Dump the MA's and buy a small pair of Magnepans. That's a start. Then possibly he can figure our what he wants to hear that doesn't involve a BandAid and move on to other equipment with a more liveable speaker personality as the anchor for any future changes. It's an anchor that places other restrictions on the system components but I see no way around this for someone who only has other systems to use as a benchmark.

Your friend needs to get a handle on what his priorities are and how he can achieve them within his price range.

mrlowry
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Re: Tube Preamp Suggestion

Magnepans are an excellent suggestion Jan (as long as the listener feels that there is enough bass.) The Magnepan 1.6QRs are very affordable and very resolving, one of the very best buys in audio. I know that they work well with the Rotel amps too. The bigger MG3.6 would probably be a bit to difficult for the RB1080 at higher volume levels but it would really depend on the listener's habits.

The other option would be to add some bass to the existing system (possibly through a sub.) The reason that I say that is because our ears hear everything relative to everything else so INCREASING the bass may have the same effect as DECREASING the treble. I've always thought the Monitor Audios in general were a bit bass shy to begin with.

If the sub angle is a possibility I'd recommend looking at a REL subwoofer. Their sonic speed would be a perfect match for Monitor Audio speakers. Their ability to expand the soundstage is remarkable. Their integration is more seamlessly than any other sub I've heard with a wide range of products. When properly set up the sub is not a source of audible sound, it just sounds like the left/right speakers have had a major increase in bass extension. Of course that sounds like a description of what ALL subs SHOULD do, unfortunately they don't. RELs are the perfect sub for those who want musical bass that doesn't call attention to the sub as a separate speaker.

floydianpsyche
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Re: Tube Preamp Suggestion

Thanks for all of the insightful comments. First I will ask him to audition with other cd players and then speakers. From what you all say it is very clear that just using a tube preamp is not a step in the right direction. But I could say he has done his best with respect to room treatment and speaker positioning in a rental apt. For the lack of a good reference I could only say that he has just started serious listening for the past one year since he got his system. I will keep you posted.

floydianpsyche
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Re: Tube Preamp Suggestion

With your replies we tried my Rega P3-24 in his system to see if source is the problem and it turned out awsome. So now my friend is out to get a better CDP and a turntable! Thank you all for your suggestions...it has saved a lot of trouble.

mrlowry
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Re: Tube Preamp Suggestion

If your are looking for suggestions on CD players in the sub $1,000 range recommend giving the Arcam CD players some very serious consideration. Their DVD players also sound excellent playing CDs.

RGibran
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Re: Tube Preamp Suggestion


Quote:
With your replies we tried my Rega P3-24 in his system to see if source is the problem and it turned out awsome. So now my friend is out to get a better CDP and a turntable! Thank you all for your suggestions...it has saved a lot of trouble.

As DUP would say...

I love it when I'm right!

RG

floydianpsyche
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Re: Tube Preamp Suggestion

Thank you Rgibran!

RGibran
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Re: Tube Preamp Suggestion

Just goofin'

Glad things have worked out.

RG

commsysman
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Re: Tube Preamp Suggestion

The electronics he has are certainly not the ultimate in resolution or dynamics, but for the money they are not bad at all. They are not his main problem.

New speakers are definitely in order, and a new CD player is the FIRST order of business; garbage in, garbage out!!!

A good economical suggestion for an excellent CD player; for about $500 one can probably find a Sony SCD-777ES SACD/CD player used. They are built like a tank and are still comparable to most new units costing under $3000. I am using the AYRE C5-XE, which is $6K, but I still have my 777 for backup, and its not bad at all.

Another possibility is the Marantz that sells for around $1000, which is rated Class A.

There are a lot of good turntables for under $1000 these days; I love my Music Hall MMF-7, with Benz ACE cartridge. That is about $1500 total. Don't buy the Music Hall stuff with the Goldring cartridge included; the cartridge sucks.
I chose the MMF-7 rather than the less expensive models because the motor is totally separate; no connection to the turntable whatsoever; I think this is a very important difference.

The Vandersteen model 2 and model 3 speakers are great speakers; they are extemely accurate, and do not tend to be bright or harsh at all. I have had the model 3's since they came out, nearly 20 years. I also got some KEF iQ9 speakers from Audio Advisor to use with my 60" Sony TV system in the family room, and they are a steal at $800, if they still are available.

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