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How can I achieve a "warm", neutral sound with bookshelf speakers?

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#1
I recently auditioned a pair of Castle Warwick bookshelf speakers with a Cambridge Audio Azur 851C and a McIntosh MA252. I was interested in it as a less-expensive compromise to approach the Harbeth design philosophy. They sounded very warm and natural in the shop, then harsh and brittle through Cambridge Audio Topaz AM-10 in my small room at home. I have found a sound I like, but it seems to be very hard to reproduce at home, and I am stumped. Can anyone offer any thoughts? I would be very grateful for suggestions for speaker/equipment combos I could try, as well. Thanks in advance-- this is one of the few sites I have found where I feel I can have confidence in the information provided!
 

Ron Texas

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#2
Try different positions or toe-in for the speakers, failing that try different speakers. The electronics will not make that much difference.
 
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#4
Yes, thanks-- I should have clarified that the McIntosh MA252 is far too expensive for me. Trying to get a sense re: what it was about the amp/CD player that gave it the warm sound, and can it be achieved less-expensively.
 

RayDunzl

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#5
Trying to get a sense re: what it was about the amp/CD player that gave it the warm sound, and can it be achieved less-expensively.
Room difference
Speaker location/orientation
Listening distance
Listening position
Playback level
Source Material

Six variables that could heavily influence perceived difference.

If you want to play with tonality, application of a little DSP might help.
 

gvl

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#6
Yes, thanks-- I should have clarified that the McIntosh MA252 is far too expensive for me. Trying to get a sense re: what it was about the amp/CD player that gave it the warm sound, and can it be achieved less-expensively.
What are you using as the source?
 

andreasmaaan

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#8
By far the most influental variable here will the the room, next will be speaker placement. Amp and source may make a subtle difference but are unlikely to be the main reasons you don't have the sound you heard in the showroom.

I'd start by trying to optimise speaker placement and toe-in, and then (if practical) look at room treatment.

Could you describe the room and set-up, maybe people have some ideas...
 

gvl

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#9
I risk to be ridiculed here by saying this, but if everything else fails try a player or better yet a stand-alone DAC that's not based on the ESS Sabre chipset.
 

NTomokawa

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#11
In addition to what RayDunzl mentioned, some less scrupulous vendors apply heavy amounts of EQ and other DSP to the speakers in the shop.

See anything Bose.
 
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#14
I risk to be ridiculed here by saying this, but if everything else fails try a player or better yet a stand-alone DAC that's not based on the ESS Sabre chipset.
Thanks-- would you say the JDS Labs that measures so well on here would be a good bet? Am interested in Cambridge Audio DAC Magic Plus because it has XLR outs, but can't find solid objective info.
 

gvl

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#15
Thanks-- would you say the JDS Labs that measures so well on here would be a good bet? Am interested in Cambridge Audio DAC Magic Plus because it has XLR outs, but can't find solid objective info.
Not sure which JDS Labs DAC you mean, but their products are pretty good. Ken Rockwell measured DAC Magic+, looks very good, apart from the headphone amp output impedance https://kenrockwell.com/audio/cambridge/dacmagic-plus.htm

Can you take your player to the shop where you auditioned the speakers and listen to familiar music there with their amp to maybe rule out or confirm the player as the source of shrillness?
 

Soniclife

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#16
Thanks-- would you say the JDS Labs that measures so well on here would be a good bet? Am interested in Cambridge Audio DAC Magic Plus because it has XLR outs, but can't find solid objective info.
I would put the chance of this being your DACs fault as effectively 0%, unless your DAC is broken.
Why do you want XLR output, your amp does not support it does it?

Can you describe the dealers room, size and any treatments? Same for your room.
Are you using similar playback levels between the 2 rooms?
Your amp and the Macintosh are quite different in power output, and yours is all solid state, this is a potential difference, especially if playing loud.
 

noobie1

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#17
Try a cheap tube preamp. I have an FX Audio Tube 1($32 on Amazon) with upgraded GE 5654W tubes ($26 on Amazon) that warmed up my analytical setup. I use it before my preamp since it hums when connected directly to my amp with good results. It's my first experience with tubes and it's a positive enough experience that I will probably get something much nicer later on.
 
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#18
This might sound silly but check to make sure your speaker wires are both the right polarity as this can cause loss of bass.

Also you could check the settings in your amp, the bass and treble to see if they are set to zero, you can increase the bass slightly and decrease the treble if you like, this will give you a "warmer" sound.

1. To enter the audio menu. Press either the Menu button on the front of the unit or on the remote control.
2. Step through the available settings by pressing the Menu button. The settings available are in order Bass, Treble and Balance.
3. When you wish to make an adjustment for bass, treble or balance, simply rotate the Volume control or use the Volume control buttons on the remote control.
4. To exit, wait for five seconds, until the unit returns to normal mode.
 
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garbulky

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#19
Room treatments and speaker adjustments, adjust the position, the spacing, the height from the ear. Also something I wouldn't do but can work: equalization
 

Frank Dernie

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#20
IME by far the most likely cause of this will be the room and where the speakers are in it.
I took a lovely sounding (in my cluttered carpeted room) system to my friend’s house which had a beautiful but minimalist room with nothing along the walls and parquet flooring. It didn’t sound anything like the same as it had. This was about 25 years ago and I have had the same experience several times since, worse recently because the latest fashions for interiors are absolutely awful for sound quality, sadly.
 
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