What to do with my setup?! $2k+ invested, still horrible... - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 74 Old 09-25-2010, 12:18 PM - Thread Starter
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Hello all,

Sorry for the crying subject... I am new here. I was silently browsing froums for the last 2 years and finally I realized I need a real advise.

I've bought Polk Lsi 9's a while ago and was trying to ge t the best out of them. Initially, I used a ~$250 Onkyo receiver which left the 9's sound in the dull league. After reading reviews, I've upgraded to Yamaha RX-797 and the difference is large. Nevertheless, after all the 'burn-in' and stuff, I still feel frustrated with the 'darkness' of the Lsi's sound (no, I don't listen to a rock music at high volumes; I listen to classical and new age and I do appreciate fine details; still, I feel that the sound of this system is too dull). Recently, I've upgraded the source from Denon DCM-390 (which is not bad at all) to Oppo BDP-83SE and I can easily hear the difference when I plug my Xenix X1HA-EPC headphone amp and AKG-K240 directly to that. However, this upgrade advantage doesn't squeeze through the whole system and I do not enjoy the resulting sound from Lsi's at all ;(

I suspect that the bottleneck is at the amp level now... I am thinking about NAD C375BEE or Cambridge Audio Azur 840A V2 now... Did anyone compare those? Maybe, other options/opinions are available? Thanks!!!
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post #2 of 74 Old 09-25-2010, 12:20 PM
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Care to tell us about your room?

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post #3 of 74 Old 09-25-2010, 12:43 PM - Thread Starter
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> Care to tell us about your room?

It's a small university apartment's living room, ~10x15'

Thanks!
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post #4 of 74 Old 09-25-2010, 02:47 PM - Thread Starter
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...or, maybe, the problem is indeed with the speakers, and all the reviews of Lsi9's out there are paid for by the manufacturer?!
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post #5 of 74 Old 09-25-2010, 03:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sheremey View Post

...or, maybe, the problem is indeed with the speakers, and all the reviews of Lsi9's out there are paid for by the manufacturer?!

I have never heard the Polks. But if you are not happy with the SQ of your system speaker changes (improvements), speaker location and room treatments will yield the biggest improvements IMO.

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post #6 of 74 Old 09-25-2010, 03:49 PM
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I'd submit that while your Yammie 797 is a decent amp and pre, it lacks any good EQ that would allow you to dial in the response on the speakers. The cheapest way to get that is to upgrade to a mid-level surround AVR. After applying some good EQ to get the response you want, if it still leaves you wanting then the speakers would be the main suspect.
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post #7 of 74 Old 09-25-2010, 04:02 PM
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I would also advise NOT running those 9's off an AVR. They are a 4 ohm load and very tough on AVR's. Get a external amp as well as do room treatments and play with the set up and make sure they are correctly done as that will have a big affect with them. If too close to back wall they will be boomy in bass ect.
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post #8 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 02:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sheremey View Post

Hello all,

Sorry for the crying subject... I am new here. I was silently browsing froums for the last 2 years and finally I realized I need a real advise.

I've bought Polk Lsi 9's a while ago and was trying to ge t the best out of them. Initially, I used a ~$250 Onkyo receiver which left the 9's sound in the dull league. After reading reviews, I've upgraded to Yamaha RX-797 and the difference is large. Nevertheless, after all the 'burn-in' and stuff, I still feel frustrated with the 'darkness' of the Lsi's sound (no, I don't listen to a rock music at high volumes; I listen to classical and new age and I do appreciate fine details; still, I feel that the sound of this system is too dull). Recently, I've upgraded the source from Denon DCM-390 (which is not bad at all) to Oppo BDP-83SE and I can easily hear the difference when I plug my Xenix X1HA-EPC headphone amp and AKG-K240 directly to that. However, this upgrade advantage doesn't squeeze through the whole system and I do not enjoy the resulting sound from Lsi's at all ;(

I suspect that the bottleneck is at the amp level now... I am thinking about NAD C375BEE or Cambridge Audio Azur 840A V2 now... Did anyone compare those? Maybe, other options/opinions are available? Thanks!!!

from 2007 Why do people say POLK LSI need dedicated amps?
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post #9 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 06:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sheremey View Post

...or, maybe, the problem is indeed with the speakers, and all the reviews of Lsi9's out there are paid for by the manufacturer?!

Have you thought of any speakers that you would consider trying? If you have and there is a store in your area maybe they would let you do an in home demo. I would try that and then you would know if the problem in your system is in fact the speakers.

I have tried multiple AVR/prepros (with room correction/EQ), preamps, DACs and sources with minimal changes. I have found speaker upgrades and speaker location yielded the most significant SQ improvements. I have yet to try room treatments but I would really like to some day.

Bill

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post #10 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 06:59 AM
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I would suggest selling the LSI9's and going with something from the RTi line. Moving from the Monitor or lower to RTi is a big change. Going from RTi to LSi isnt and most folks dont really get to enjoy the LSi's without a beefy external amp. If you head to the Polk Forums you will see people running 300+ watt amps for the LSi lines as the norm.

The RTi line on the other hand can be easily driven by your receiver and you should enjoy them thoroughly, an external amp never hurts but your receiver is more than capable of driving them (90db and 8ohm). Moving from the RTi to the LSi line is like going from a 90 to 100. Both are A's but the 100 is a lot harder to achieve.....

I have also heard that you need to keep them away from walls (2 to 3 ft on the side and about 1 ft behind), otherwise they will sound muddy. Someone also put some towels over the back powerport and said that helped a bunch in regards to the muddy bass he was experiencing.

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post #11 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 07:14 AM
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+1 on needing an external amp.. you can even use the 797 you got as a preamp since it does have pre outs.
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post #12 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 07:29 AM
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I think you need to find a shop that sells real hi fi equipment and dedicate an afternoon to listening to some of your favorite music. real hi fi is defined as Equipment that the manufacturer says it's made for hi fi or stereo listening. This way you may learn or discover what sound you are looking for.

McIntosh Labs! What am I listening to?
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post #13 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 07:30 AM
 
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Originally Posted by coolsax View Post

+1 on needing an external amp.. you can even use the 797 you got as a preamp since it does have pre outs.

If the room acoustics or speaker itself is hurting the sound, no external amp will help it.
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post #14 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 07:39 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sheremey View Post

I still feel frustrated with the 'darkness' of the Lsi's sound (no, I don't listen to a rock music at high volumes; I listen to classical and new age and I do appreciate fine details; still, I feel that the sound of this system is too dull).

Sounds like you are describing the lack of or reduced high frequency output. Try different toe-in angle see how it is. It does change the h.f. level.

"Polk Audio LSi9
Top curve: on-axis response
Middle curve: 15 degrees off-axis response
Bottom curve: 30 degrees off-axis response"
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post #15 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 07:44 AM
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Originally Posted by geekhd View Post

Sounds like you are describing the lack of or reduced high frequency output. Try different toe-in angle see how it is. It does change the h.f. level.

A great suggestion that does not take much time and certainly does not cost anything.

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Originally Posted by geekhd View Post

If the room acoustics or speaker itself is hurting the sound, no external amp will help it.

I agree 100%. I honestly can not see what difference an external amp will make other than if the OP's AVR was having difficulty driving the Polks. From what the OP has said that does not appear to be the problem. It sounds more like a speaker or room related issue.

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post #16 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 07:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sheremey View Post

Recently, I've upgraded the source from Denon DCM-390 (which is not bad at all) to Oppo BDP-83SE and I can easily hear the difference when I plug my Xenix X1HA-EPC headphone amp and AKG-K240 directly to that. However, this upgrade advantage doesn't squeeze through the whole system and I do not enjoy the resulting sound from Lsi's at all ;(

If you find enough money to buy Oppo SE, make second move and buy preamp with room response correction. It does not matter what amp you buy (since 797 is a very good amp already). You definitely have problem with overall response from your system. Largest change will be replacing speakers to something more suitable for your taste, or (if you want to keep them) DSP based processor. You will be better with one, that permits manual adjustments (like having Audyssey Pro). In case if you feel confident in your skills and have time for trial and error, get Behringer DEQ2496 (http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/DEQ2496.aspx). You probably will do better if feed it with digital output from your player. Then use 797 as the amp in pure direct mode.
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post #17 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 08:35 AM
 
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Originally Posted by ap1 View Post

If you find enough money to buy Oppo SE, make second move and buy preamp with room response correction. It does not matter what amp you buy (since 797 is a very good amp already). You definitely have problem with overall response from your system. Largest change will be replacing speakers to something more suitable for your taste, or (if you want to keep them) DSP based processor. You will be better with one, that permits manual adjustments (like having Audyssey Pro). In case if you feel confident in your skills and have time for trial and error, get Behringer DEQ2496 (http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/DEQ2496.aspx). You probably will do better if feed it with digital output from your player. Then use 797 as the amp in pure direct mode.

Electronic EQ is just a band-aid to a deep gash. The real solution is to deal with room acoustics and or speakers. Once those two are taken care, EQ may be used as an icing on the cake.
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post #18 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 01:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geekhd View Post

Electronic EQ is just a band-aid to a deep gash. The real solution is to deal with room acoustics and or speakers. Once those two are taken care, EQ may be used as an icing on the cake.

geekhd,

Once again I totally agree with your thoughts. I have tried Audyssey with music in my room and I prefer not to use it when using my 886 with 2 CH music. Although I do use the Anti-Mode 8033 for a sub EQ when using my Parasound 2100 for 2CH music.

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post #19 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 03:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone for the passionate and detailed responses!

It looks like both of the 2 problems mentioned (room setup and the amp) are indeed there. When I listen to the speakers close-up, the sound is much finer then when I position myself in the "sweet spot" not to mention any deviations from that...

To geekhd: Yes, I've seen this response curve; actually, I might draw the similar one having my ears as the only measuring instrument; yes, high freq. are fading and there is a boomy peak near ~100 hz. Positioning the speakers differently does make difference but not resolves the problem.

I do consider EQ and I've already tried my DSP-1124P (set manually, as a first approximation; I know it's crazy to set parametirc EQ manually). While the frequency response became OK, some finer structure of the sound disappeared (and my wife can hear this as well). So, I am thinking about some old good analog EQ (Yammi EQ-70?) According to the specs, it should be transparent. I've learned about the Room EQ Wizard on this forum and I do have Behringer ECM800 individually calibrated microphone (just had no chance to start all of this yet).

Why I started to ask about amps? Everyone says that RX-797 is a good pre, and I question this statement because (oh, this sensitivity will kill my budget!) I easily hear the difference between "pure direct" and "CD direct" modes and easily hear the difference between the headphones amp in 797 and the above-mentioned Xenix dedicated headphone amp. And (correct me if I am wrong), an external EQ may be hooked to the RX-797 in "pure direct" but non in "CD direct" mode (I don't have any schemata for 797 but the CD direct seems to bypass anything hooked to a pre-amp out)!!! And once you listen to CD direct, there is no way back, and I started to suspect that I don't want certain circuits on the 797's preamp... This makes me think about a finer amp. Could anyone comment on the two I mentioned in the original message?


ap1: "...Behringer DEQ2496 (http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/DEQ2496.aspx). You probably will do better if feed it with digital output from your player."

Thank you for the link! May I hope that this piece of equipment won't "shave out" the fine structure of the music like 1124P does? Your suggestion to use the digital output from Oppo SE is an interesting one... Does it mean that AD/DA converters of the DEQ2496 are so fine that we can easily forget about the fancy Oppo's SE DACs?

Thanks!
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post #20 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 05:11 PM
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I would attribute "loss of fine structure" to additional A/D and D/A conversions which 1124 does, when you use it in analog loop. That is why I recommend use of digital output from Oppo. 2496 has very good DAC, but more important that keeping all processing in digital domain until final D/A conversion always produces best results.

I do not know details about internals of 797, but from my experience with similar Yamaha receivers the only good part of it is power amp. Preamp section is quite primitive and not up to the task. This is why "pure direct" mode gives better results, as preamp is bypassed.
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post #21 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 05:12 PM
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[quote=sheremey;19247961]
Quote:


It looks like both of the 2 problems mentioned (room setup and the amp) are indeed there. When I listen to the speakers close-up, the sound is much finer then when I position myself in the "sweet spot" not to mention any deviations from that...

I'm certainly not an expert on speakers or the interaction of speakers in a room. But if your speakers sound good close up then do not sound good in the sweet spot how will a different amp or room EQ going to correct that?

Quote:


To geekhd: Yes, I've seen this response curve; actually, I might draw the similar one having my ears as the only measuring instrument; yes, high freq. are fading and there is a boomy peak near ~100 hz. Positioning the speakers differently does make difference but not resolves the problem.

This to me indicates an issue within your room (speaker location?) or the speaker itself.

Quote:


I do consider EQ and I've already tried my DSP-1124P (set manually, as a first approximation; I know it's crazy to set parametirc EQ manually). While the frequency response became OK, some finer structure of the sound disappeared (and my wife can hear this as well). So, I am thinking about some old good analog EQ (Yammi EQ-70?) According to the specs, it should be transparent. I've learned about the Room EQ Wizard on this forum and I do have Behringer ECM800 individually calibrated microphone (just had no chance to start all of this yet).

If you are not happy with the SQ of your system after EQing your system with the 1124P will you be happy using the EQ-70? Tough question to ask as you haven't tried it but I really think trying some different speakers is the key IMO.

Quote:


Your suggestion to use the digital output from Oppo SE is an interesting one... Does it mean that AD/DA converters of the DEQ2496 are so fine that we can easily forget about the fancy Oppo's SE DACs?

I have the BDP-83SE as well and there is no way I would use a digital output unless the external DAC was of better quality than those in the 83SE. Are the DACs in the 2496 as good as the DACs in the 83SE?

Bill

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Quote:
Originally Posted by ap1 View Post

I do not know details about internals of 797, but from my experience with similar Yamaha receivers the only good part of it is power amp. Preamp section is quite primitive and not up to the task. This is why "pure direct" mode gives better results, as preamp is bypassed.

How can the preamp section of the 797 be bypassed? If it is then what is processing the signal if the preamp is bypassed? Do you mean all DSP functions are bypassed in "pure direct" mode?

Bill

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post #23 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 05:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Mac View Post

How can the preamp section of the 797 be bypassed? If it is then what is processing the signal if the preamp is bypassed? Do you mean all DSP functions are bypassed in "pure direct" mode?

Bill

If I understand correctly this is RX-797 STEREO receiver. It does NOT have any DSP. "Pure direct" mode bypasses anything in preamp part with exception of volume control. "CD direct" mode bypasses source switch also. In that mode 797 is just power amp with passive volume control.
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post #24 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 06:09 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ap1 View Post

I would attribute "loss of fine structure" to additional A/D and D/A conversions which 1124 does, when you use it in analog loop. That is why I recommend use of digital output from Oppo. 2496 has very good DAC, but more important that keeping all processing in digital domain until final D/A conversion always produces best results.

I do not know details about internals of 797, but from my experience with similar Yamaha receivers the only good part of it is power amp. Preamp section is quite primitive and not up to the task. This is why "pure direct" mode gives better results, as preamp is bypassed.

That's my point too. I afraid to convert back and forth between the two realms. And since the Oppo's DAC is difficult to beat (both according to to my ears and to the extra $400 spent, khe-khe), I am thinking about a transparent analog EQ... As to 797, that's exactly my impression! Preamp quality seems to be the bottleneck. It's nice to learn that my impression is not just that - impression - but is supported by the expert's opinions. In addition, I've bi-wired the Lsi's, so there should be less low-impedance shock to the power amp (I mean, each of the two separate speaker outputs face MORE than 4 Ohm resistance). The latter is a common sense conclusion, correct me if it's not the case... The consensus conclusion from here, I believe, is that the power amp may be left alone for the time being.

Concerning the preamp upgrade, any suggestions? Is there something more affordable than, say, Rotel RC-1580, with similar specs? I'll think about that regardless to the conclusion on the speakers (still waiting for the EQ to arrive).

Thanks!
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post #25 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 06:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ap1 View Post

If I understand correctly this is RX-797 STEREO receiver. It does NOT have any DSP. "Pure direct" mode bypasses anything in preamp part with exception of volume control. "CD direct" mode bypasses source switch also. In that mode 797 is just power amp with passive volume control.

My bad. For some reason I thought it was an AVR. Although I do consider any form of volume control to be part of the preamp so it is not totally bypassing all preamp functions. Probably splitting hairs with that but just my opinion.

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post #26 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 06:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sheremey View Post

That's my point too. I afraid to convert back and forth between the two realms. And since the Oppo's DAC is difficult to beat (both according to to my ears and to the extra $400 spent, khe-khe), I am thinking about a transparent analog EQ...
Thanks!

That was the main mistake. If you want to do tone correction for digital source, it is better to do in digital domain. Results are so much better. D/A should be the last step. That is why I do not see why you want to have high quality DAC INSIDE player. The best chain would be transport->DSP based pre/pro->DAC->power amp.

If you use digital output of your player and connect DEQ2496, you can add external DAC, as DEQ can work as pure digital device. Since you already have measurement microphone, you can use semi-automatic correction mode in DEQ to adjust overall response.
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post #27 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 06:49 PM
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Although I do consider any form of volume control to be part of the preamp so it is not totally bypassing all preamp functions.

Bill

It bypasses all ACTIVE parts of preamp. Volume control in Yamaha is passive only circuit.
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post #28 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 07:36 PM
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[quote=ap1;19248609]That is why I do not see why you want to have high quality DAC INSIDE player.

One would want a high quality DAC in the player if they are using an analog preamp.

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The best chain would be transport->DSP based pre/pro->DAC->power amp.

This might work best for you but some prefer an analog preamp with no room correction. To each his own.

Quote:


If you use digital output of your player and connect DEQ2496, you can add external DAC, as DEQ can work as pure digital device. Since you already have measurement microphone, you can use semi-automatic correction mode in DEQ to adjust overall response.

I still feel room correction for the OP is a band-aid for speakers that might not be performing to his expectations.

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It bypasses all ACTIVE parts of preamp. Volume control in Yamaha is passive only circuit.

True but whether the volume control is ACTIVE or PASSIVE I still see it as integral function of the preamp/797.

Bill

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That was the main mistake. If you want to do tone correction for digital source, it is better to do in digital domain. Results are so much better. D/A should be the last step. That is why I do not see why you want to have high quality DAC INSIDE player. The best chain would be transport->DSP based pre/pro->DAC->power amp.

If you use digital output of your player and connect DEQ2496, you can add external DAC, as DEQ can work as pure digital device. Since you already have measurement microphone, you can use semi-automatic correction mode in DEQ to adjust overall response.

You've convinced me that buying SE was a dead end in the first place... Why didn't I ask people before rushing into that?! All right, I can leave those in-player DACs dedicated for the headphone amp Thank you again and I'll go rethink the whole strategy of my audio setup...
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post #30 of 74 Old 09-26-2010, 08:20 PM
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You've convinced me that buying SE was a dead end in the first place... Why didn't I ask people before rushing into that?! All right, I can leave those in-player DACs dedicated for the headphone amp Thank you again and I'll go rethink the whole strategy of my audio setup...

I do not think the 83SE was a dead end purchase. I enjoy my 83SE through my Parasound 2100, to my amp then to my Salk SongTowers. Although if you are not using it for any form of video use then you are missing a portion of the 83SEs capability.

I do not think that you do not need to totally rethink your system strategy. Although I'm not to sure how the Yamaha EQ will help out, worth a shot though. But at least go out and listen to some different speakers bringing along your favorite CDs. I had speakers from av123 that I thought were great at the time I owned them (Rocket 750s and then Ref 1/1.8s). Then I started listening to quite a bit of music and then I found these speakers to be lacking in overall SQ.

I spent a several weeks going to several audio shops in my area armed with my favorite music and listened to a number of speakers. This opened my eyes to how important speakers, speaker placement and my room played in the overall SQ of my system. Not only did I get to hear many good speakers but learnt so much from speaking with many different people that worked at these stores. I honestly think you are setting yourself up for disappointment if you think you can tweak your current speakers to the point where they will sound good enough to you.

Bill

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