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ggc's picture
Last seen: 5 years 2 months ago
Joined: Jul 21 2012 - 3:01pm
What would you do next?...

Hi folks!

I'm new to the forum and looking forward to gathering a lot of information and opinions!

I have just started to update my 2 channel system and I am looking to gather some opinions as to what I should look at to accomplish what I would like...

My system consists of a Cambridge Audio Azur 640C v.2 CD player, a Pro-Ject Debut III Turntable, a Rotel RC-971 Preamp, a Rotel RB-971 Amp, and a pair of Paradigm Studio 60 speakers.  Except for the CD player and the turntable, I put this system together almost 20 years ago, and my goal, at that time, was to get the cleanest, most neutral, clearest sound I could get within my budget, and I think I did alright...

Lately, however, my ears and tastes have changed and I have been finding the system a little harsh and "in your face", so I have started to look at changing some, or all of it in order to put something together that will give me a more "natural" sound...Something that still contains a lot of detail, but is more relaxed/warmer sounding.  I would also like the sound to be much more "3D" than my previous system...A sense of space and instrument placement, as opposed to everything being "right there".

The first component I have replaced is the CD player.  I have gone with a NAD C565BEE, which sounds like an improvement to me.  The detail is still there, in fact, it has greater detail than the Cambridge Audio, but it sounds much less harsh.

So, I am now wondering where to go next and what would provide the biggest improvemet to my system.  I have been considering new amplification (likely an integrated amp...I've been thinking about the NAD C375BEE), or speakers (although, I would really like to keep the speakers unchanged, if it is possible for them to give me the sound I want by changing other elements of the system).  I am also open to other suggestions or opinions about what I could do to accomplish a warmer, less fatiguing sound.

Although I do use the turntable and listen to vinyl, CD is by far the medium I use most, and that will likely continue to be the case.

Any opinions or viewpoints would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks very much in advance!

Demondog's picture
Last seen: 7 months 1 week ago
Joined: Feb 22 2009 - 5:01pm
Ah, the upgrade question.

Are the Paradigm Studio 60's the .v5 or an earlier version? I assume the Rotel RC-971 is not a MK II?

I like the sound of NAD's C375BEE in its price range, and I'm using the same power amp section (C275). While the NAD C375BEE doesn't sound particularly lean, it doesn't have the same (excessive?) warmth  that some feel NAD is known for. It would be a slight step up in power over your Rotel, but I don't know how much difference it would make to the sound of your speakers. The NAD's strongest selling point is power, and you might be able to get more refinement in some of the competing products in that price range, but with a little less power.

Upgrading your speakers might pay off, but it kind of depends on how old they are, how much you're willing to spend for new ones, and if you have any real dissatisfaction with them.

You might be looking at a considerable investment to get a less harsh, and more natural sounding system. I'm not sure if replacing one component is going to do the trick.

ggc's picture
Last seen: 5 years 2 months ago
Joined: Jul 21 2012 - 3:01pm
Thanks for the reply! The

Thanks for the reply!

The Studio 60s are v1s, and the Rotel equipment is MK I.  One of the problems that I'm having is that I am not sure which component, or combination of components are taking away from the sound I want to hear...I was sure about the CD player because, even when using my entry-level turntable, I preferred the sound, so, I felt that the CD player was a good place to start.

Power isn't really a problem...I don't listen at earth-shaking levels very often...So, another thing I was considering is maybe just switching out the preamp for something warmer.

It's hard for me to judge the speakers because I have only ever heard them with my system, but, my feeling is, they are pretty neutral...Possibly slightly bright, but not too bad.

I'm hoping to keep the budget for any remaining components under $3000 and, preferably, under $2000.

JoeE SP9
JoeE SP9's picture
Last seen: 3 days 39 min ago
Joined: Oct 31 2005 - 6:02pm

When a system is categorized as "harsh and in your face" it's almost always the speakers that are the culprit. Perhaps the sound you liked and wanted 20 years ago is not what you want to hear now. FWIW Paradigm speakers from that era have always sounded slightly harsh and in your face to me. That's why I've never liked them. They've always sounded overly "Hi-Fi'ish" to me, not as bad as JBL L100's but in the same ball park.

ggc's picture
Last seen: 5 years 2 months ago
Joined: Jul 21 2012 - 3:01pm
Thanks JoeE. Is there

Thanks JoeE.

Is there anything that you could suggest that might sound more relaxed/pleasing for speakers and would match well with the Rotel amplification?  I think that your comment about wanting to hear something different than I did 20 years ago is right on the money. 

jgossman's picture
Last seen: 10 months 1 week ago
Joined: Aug 18 2011 - 6:21am

Paradigm speakers of that era got a bad rap for that.  Much like the mentioned JBL series, they had a tendency to be placed in the price range of their associated components, or in mid-fi home theater set ups.  Part of the problem with putting uber revealing tweeters on entry level speakers is they show off the shortcomings of $300 cd/dvd players and $500 home theater amps and the associated $50 monster interconnects likely to have been used because the dealer cost on a $50 Monster cable is about the same as the $30 Acoustic Research cable that is not only a better cable, but better made to boot, but I digress to the evils of Best Buy.  

So, if this is the direction you are headed, I usually recommend only replacing your speakers when you have worked yourself upstream and you are really really confident they are the week point.  First of all, they commonly held misconception that speakers are the most distortion laden components we use is widely misguided.  Most main stream hi-fi speakers made in the last 20 years or so are a bit different here and there, but mostly neutral and pretty revealing.  And in my experience from hearing them, you often get way off course when you get in to the "ultra-fi" end of speakers, where they tend to do one or two things very well, but fall apart when asked to move away from that.  When a maker is building speakers for a man who makes $500k a year a maker can afford to make a piece of art, visually and sonically, because he doesn't have to market his product to very many people.  He is building his vision for his customers.  And because people buying at that price point are as likely buying it for arts sake anyway, which is perfectly fine, btw.

I guess that's a long way of saying don't underestimate the value of pouring your expendible cash into your sources and amps.  If you've bought speakers in the last 20 years or bought nice used speakers of the era, from a mainstream manufacturer, JMLab, Klipsch, JBL, Infinity, B&W, etc, they will absolutely NOT sound the same, but they WILL probably be basically neutral, and you are probably better off sonically focusing on properly driving each's power requirements and shaping any step from neutrallity with the signature of the amplifier/cable combination.

jackfish's picture
Last seen: 4 years 1 month ago
Joined: Dec 19 2005 - 2:42pm
I'd consider treating the room first.

Bass traps in the four corners, and broadband absorption at the first reflection points, sidewalls and ceiling, and front and back walls. Then maybe a carpet of area rug on the floor. Could be enough to tame the harshness you hear. If not, it can only make whatever you get next better.

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