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8 years of frustration

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rkc

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I have owned SL3s for about 8 years now and have never been able to achieve the sound I know these speakers are capable of. Anybody else as frustrated as I am? I currently use a AES AE3 tube preamp with a Sunfire Cinema Grand Signature and a modified Pioneer dvd player. My cables are Mit T2 speaker and Tara Labs Prism 22 interconnects. The closest I have come to "the sound" is when I auditioned an old Conrad Johnson MF-200 amplifier in my system a few years ago. It had a wonderfully musical sound except it wouldn't rock n' roll. I am willing to sell all of my equipment in order to get the sound right. I have about $800 for a preamp and whatever I sell the Sunfire for to get an amp. I know thats not a lot of money for trying to get sonic bliss but if I can come within the ball park, I'd be very happy. I am open to any suggestions. If I can't get it right, I may just sell the speakers and get me a big set of horn speakers to try something different. My room is 22' x 18' x 13' cathedral ceiling. I listen to jazz, rock and some R and b as well. Thanks for reading.

Rich
 

zaphod

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rkc said:
I have owned SL3s for about 8 years now and have never been able to achieve the sound I know these speakers are capable of. Anybody else as frustrated as I am? ... My room is 22' x 18' x 13' cathedral ceiling. I listen to jazz, rock and some R and b as well. Thanks for reading.
hi,

it sounds like room treatment issues to me. the sunfire amps should have lots of juice, so i'd start looking at speaker placement, and room issues. - could you describe your room, what else is in it, and how the speakers are place in the room.

kachi is one of the local experts here on room treatments, but there are lots of good articles in this forum on room treatments.

i can sympathize with your dilemma - i have always loved my CLS and they drop the jaws on pretty much anyone who listens to them, but they never quite acheived joygasm for like like i had heard CLS (or even some other speakers) achieve.

the thing that put them over the edge for me was Kachi's suggestion to put some soft padding between the speakers on the wall behind them.

wow. spacial placement and the timbre of the sound moved from fantastic to awe inspiring.

which is the step i think that you are missing :)
 

attyonline

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With all due respect, if you have never been happy with the sound you were getting from the Martin Logans, why have you kept them for so long? A glimpse of the members systems show a lot of folks with your model of speaker who are very happy with the sound they are getting. It just may be that your speakers are not your cup of tea. I would not spend a lot of money on upgrades until you zero in on what you really dislike about your sound now. I am no fan of the Pioneer dvd player or the MIT cable, but IMO you need to listen to other gear or speakers to determine what is the problem. I would start with a lot better source dvd player and see if that made a substantial improvement.
 

daniel

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In all those years, what change have you made?

You talk about amp, what about source?

it could be this, or you need a new room?
 

jjcarr

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rkc said:
I have owned SL3s for about 8 years now and have never been able to achieve the sound I know these speakers are capable of. Anybody else as frustrated as I am? I currently use a AES AE3 tube preamp with a Sunfire Cinema Grand Signature and a modified Pioneer dvd player. My cables are Mit T2 speaker and Tara Labs Prism 22 interconnects.
Rich
You may want to describe in more detail what type of sound it is you think you are missing.

I owned the AE3 preamp for a while, it's OK but I found it to be a bit grainy and dull when compared to other tube preamps (I compared it to a fully modded Foreplay and BAT VK3i) which I think is a sound character of the SN7 tubes (if I remember the moddel right.

However, describe what you're looking for and we can comment better (more detail and resolution, more impact, more bass, more imaging, etc...)

James
 

DTB300

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zaphod said:
the thing that put them over the edge for me was Kachi's suggestion to put some soft padding between the speakers on the wall behind them.
Don't mean to hijack the thread, Zaphod...what type of padding and size did you use behind your speakers?

To the orginator of the thread...which Pioneer DVD player do you have? Do you have Tweeter store nearby? You can go there, pick up one of the new players - open box or demo model, take it home, audition it, and bring it back according to their return policy, to see what else is out there and how it sounds. This way you can check your source, to see if it changes or stays the same. Then on to other components...

But the first and cheapest way, like other here have suggested is room acoustics with cheap foam, blankets, etc. and speaker movement.

Dan
 
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jjqiv

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Front-End First

You system is only as good as your weakest link. If you weakest link is in the front.......
 

kach22i

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I'm not really an acoustic expert, did take an acoustic class for my architecture degree, read the magazines for over 20 years, did little experiments along the way....................just sharing what little I know same as everyone else.

So far this is what has been mentioned:

1. Room acoustics

2. Front End (DVD)

3. Pre-amp

Here is a crazy thought not yet thrown out there - power. No, not the power amp, what's coming out of the wall?

4. Wall power

I lived in a really cool old building for seven years, could never get the music to really open up, and the turntable always had a hum. I had guessed my problems were the large room and the turntable, but things changed once I moved. I think that I had a low voltage problem, perhaps it even killed the first Tripp-Lite power conditioner I had, that yellow light seemed to be on way too much and it ran hot as Hades.

A buddy of mine has a great stereo, but it sounds harsh in the top end to me. He lives right near a sub station and says he get 140V not 120V and is constantly replacing light bulbs (had one pop while I was there Sunday).

I'll say this, the CD/DVD player or Turntable setup is very important.

Front-End FYI: Last summer I listened to what may of been $20,000 in McIntosh tube driven equipment (preamp, amp, DVD player) which had some self powered bass unit dynamic speakers. This system actualy had parts of the music omitted - the begining of each note seemed to be missing. Normally I like the incredible soundstaging Mac's can give - however this pacticular set-up just stank. I mentioned it to the owner of the shop, he said that as good as the Mac combo DVD player is it really was the weak link in the system. He also said he is in the school of thought that DVD players are a compromise when used in lieu of a dedicated CD player.

I should say that I have a McIntosch CD player which I have been very happy with for seven years.......you could not give me any DVD player to do it's job. I hope that I'm not off on a tangent taking about another brand/maker - just using it as an example.

I know there will be differing opinions on this, I've seen many great member systems that probably just smoke mine which use only a DVD player.

It's just a thought but perhaps there is a super compact disc player in your future. I think you have a nice system other than the DVD player. Cheers, George/kach22i.

EDIT: The Mac I have uses the Pioneer CD mechanism and Wadi electronics - don't try to use any disc stablizer attachments (floppy things).
 
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rkc

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My first experience with Martin Logan was with the original CLS 20 years ago and one that I will never forget. From then on, I was hooked. I had always dreamed of owning a set of Logans until 8 years ago when I was able to pick up my SL3s. At the time, I wasn't in a position to buy components that would really compliment them. Slowly over time, I started to upgrade one piece at a time. I started by upgrading my amp with a Parasound, the hca-1500. From there I went from a Denon cd player to the Pioneer DV-333 dvd player that I sent to an upstart company called Modwright (www.modwright.com) to have the player modified to a nice sounding cd/dvd player. The dvd player made a really nice improvement over the Denon. I then picked up the Audio Research LS3 which replaced an old Carver preamp that I had. That made a really nice improvement as well. I then upgraded my amp to the Sunfire and about a year later built the AE3 preamp to give tubes a shot. Every upgrade that I made to my system made a definate improvement except the AE3 preamp. I am looking for a sound that most Martin Logan owners would agree on is one that is very musical, non-fatiguing with decent micro and macro dynamic capability. To this day, I can remember how the CLS sounded. I have always wanted that sound with the ability to rock on occasion. I understand that the SL3 will not approach the CLS in a lot of ways but if it's relatively close, I can live with it. One thing I didn't have at the time I bought the Logans was a forum such as this with a wealth of knowledge to steer me in the right direction from the get go. I ended up with a very high end speaker with mid-fi components that eventually came back to bite me in the behind. Don't get me wrong, I have gotten more enjoyment than frustration with these speakers over the years. If I didn't enjoy them at all, I would have sold them off long ago. Attyonline, if there is a cable that you would recommend over mit, give me a suggestion. I agree on the room acoustics as well but unfortunately the old WAF eliminates those possibilities. I do have plush carpeting with thick curtains and leather furniture so it's not what you would call a "bright" room. Okay, so if you had $2500 to spend on an amp, preamp and cd player, is it possible to get that musical, non-fatiguing sound that I'm after? If so, what components would you recommend? Conrad Johnson and Blue Circle I have heard could be good choices. I would even be willing to try a dac as the Pioneer player supposedly is a good transport. Well guys, I hope that I was able to paint a better picture of what it is I am looking for. I sincerely appreciate your comments and suggestions.

Rich
 

kach22i

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rkc said:
I would even be willing to try a dac as the Pioneer player supposedly is a good transport.
We have a lot in common, I had my Aerius speakers hooked up to a Carver CT-17 preamp and Rotel amp for many years.

Hey if you have the time and your wife lets you explore the CLS idea - give Rickm a PM or e-mail.....................see this thread, he might hook you up with his buddy:

http://www.martinloganowners.com/forum/showthread.php?t=537

"rkc", if you do go the DAC route give me a PM on you choice. I heard the same thing about the Pioneer transport seven years ago and never upgraded, but have always thought about it.

EDIT: I did some research on preamps a while back - good search engine on the "Tube Asylum". If I had a CD only system (can get dual outs) might consider Emotive. don't know anyone with one, never heard one - but oh do they look good. I ended with with a GRAAF, great preamp but rare

http://www.emotiveaudio.com/
 
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jjcarr

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rkc said:
My first experience with Martin Logan ...
From what you describe it sounds like your system lacks the sparkle that you expect. The delicate, but as you describe, non-stressfull air that stats seem to have.

First off, your SL3 will never do what the CLS does. I've had SL3's, CLS's, Innersound Eros', and ReQuests and found the Eros and Request were the only ones that came close to the CLS in terms of midrange and 'air'. So while it can do a lot more than what you are getting right now, it has it's limits. But I think you'll be able to get where you want to go with the SL3.

However, I think the weak link in your system is the AE3. Coupled with the Sunfire amp I think it's 'dulling' your system.

Keep in mind that interconnects and speaker cable are usually a complement to your components, so cables that sound good on one system might not sound good on another, so I would recomend you attend to the components first.

Keep the Pioneer, Modwright does good work and your current source isn't the limiting factor.

Carver tried to get a 'tube' sound by dulling the treble of his components, and I think some of this sound trickled into the Sunfire components. But, I think you can get by with this as the AE3 is the big problem. Personally I think the AE3 is tuned for horn components where it's less airey sound offsets the brittle nature of horns (older horns that is, I've heard some that really impressed me, and a lot of them that didn't). When I connected the AE3 to La Scalas, it sounded great, on the Logans...not so good.

If you like building your own components and want to experiment, build a Foreplay. I found the Foreplay to be more more detailed and airey than the AE3. Fully modded the Foreplay is still butt-ugly but can stand up to a lot of heavy hitter preamps. But, more importantly, I think it's more bright and forward sound, compared to the AE3 would suit your tastes.

An out-of-the box recomendation would be to get a BAT VK3i preamp and Bel Canto 200.2 amp. Both of these are very detailed units and I think complement the SL3's well. Used on Audiogon they can be had for about $1k each. However, that is not to say that there aren't other good suggestions out there. I throw these out as focused suggestions.

Personally I think you are looking for a more dramatic difference than calbes or treatments would offer, but definitely address those once the components are lined out.

James
 

DTB300

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jjcarr said:
Keep the Pioneer, Modwright does good work and your current source isn't the limiting factor.
Agreed. Dan Wright does have great products and has excellent customer support.

If you are going to make changes to your system, do it one piece at a time and not whole bore....You will never know what each change makes.

Dan
 

zaphod

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DTB300 said:
Don't mean to hijack the thread, Zaphod...what type of padding and size did you use behind your speakers?

here's the link to the thread where this was discussed. i eneded up with two futon bolsters and a "standard" feather pillow.

i plan on making a semi-circular tube trap-like fiberglass item as a more permanent solution. jon risch has an article found here that describes how to make a bass trap.

there is a company (that turned out to be local to me :)) which sells acoustic treatments for reasonable prices. here is there web site. I haven't used their products - but they seem reasonably priced.

cheers
 

jjqiv

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rkc said:
My first experience with Martin Logan was with the original CLS 20 years ago and one that I will never forget. From then on, I was hooked. I had always dreamed of owning a set of Logans until 8 years ago when I was able to pick up my SL3s. At the time, I wasn't in a position to buy components that would really compliment them. Slowly over time, I started to upgrade one piece at a time. I started by upgrading my amp with a Parasound, the hca-1500. From there I went from a Denon cd player to the Pioneer DV-333 dvd player that I sent to an upstart company called Modwright (www.modwright.com) to have the player modified to a nice sounding cd/dvd player. The dvd player made a really nice improvement over the Denon. I then picked up the Audio Research LS3 which replaced an old Carver preamp that I had. That made a really nice improvement as well. I then upgraded my amp to the Sunfire and about a year later built the AE3 preamp to give tubes a shot. Every upgrade that I made to my system made a definate improvement except the AE3 preamp. I am looking for a sound that most Martin Logan owners would agree on is one that is very musical, non-fatiguing with decent micro and macro dynamic capability. To this day, I can remember how the CLS sounded. I have always wanted that sound with the ability to rock on occasion. I understand that the SL3 will not approach the CLS in a lot of ways but if it's relatively close, I can live with it. One thing I didn't have at the time I bought the Logans was a forum such as this with a wealth of knowledge to steer me in the right direction from the get go. I ended up with a very high end speaker with mid-fi components that eventually came back to bite me in the behind. Don't get me wrong, I have gotten more enjoyment than frustration with these speakers over the years. If I didn't enjoy them at all, I would have sold them off long ago. Attyonline, if there is a cable that you would recommend over mit, give me a suggestion. I agree on the room acoustics as well but unfortunately the old WAF eliminates those possibilities. I do have plush carpeting with thick curtains and leather furniture so it's not what you would call a "bright" room. Okay, so if you had $2500 to spend on an amp, preamp and cd player, is it possible to get that musical, non-fatiguing sound that I'm after? If so, what components would you recommend? Conrad Johnson and Blue Circle I have heard could be good choices. I would even be willing to try a dac as the Pioneer player supposedly is a good transport. Well guys, I hope that I was able to paint a better picture of what it is I am looking for. I sincerely appreciate your comments and suggestions.

Rich

I had a very similar experience. After hearing the CLS's, I ended up buying SL3's. Initially, the upgrade to SL3's ended-up being a down grade to my system's sound. I upgraded the amp. No magic. I upgraded the digital source and DAC. No magic. I added a turntable. That is when the magic started. From there, new tube pre's, tube phono's, cartridges, vibration control, room tuning, etc. I am now a very, very happy camper.

My latest upgrade was to a Shelter 501 cartridge. It just breaking in. Wow! Now that was a world class upgrade!

B.T.W., I have demoed a lot of high-end digital stuff with my SL3's and have never really found the sound satisfying.
 

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zaphod said:
here's the link to the thread where this was discussed. i eneded up with two futon bolsters and a "standard" feather pillow.
So by your picture in the thread mentioned, you have these setup BEHIND your TV. Correct?

i plan on making a semi-circular tube trap-like fiberglass item as a more permanent solution. jon risch has an article found here that describes how to make a bass trap.
Jon has some great ideas on DIY stuff, from cables, to acoustics, etc.

Dan
 

zaphod

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DTB300 said:
So by your picture in the thread mentioned, you have these setup BEHIND your TV. Correct?
yep. i'd take a picure, but i've stated elsewhere in this forum that i really stink in that area :)

the TV is a "classic" sony CRT. behind it, at 38" from the floor is a 12" deep shelf that extends out over the back end of the TV.

it is on this shelf, slightly behind and definately above the TV, that the pillows have been placed.

cheers
 
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rkc

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I had the same exact experience with the AES AE3 as you James, I thought it was very dull sounding with no life. I did try new ElectroHarmonix 6sn7s which only set me back about $30. It changed the preamp from dull to ultra detailed. The sound got a lot better but it is waaay too bright. The Sunfire has current source speaker connections for more of a tube sound and voltage source for the more typical solid state sound. With the new tubes, it is too bright with the voltage source and too soft sounding with the current source. The bass just goes flat. I also agree on Dan Wright's work on modifications to the Pioneer players. It really is a good solid sounding player. I have never paired it up against any other cd player so I have no idea if there would be a significant jump in performance for the same $$$ I've put into the Pioneer. Introducing a dac to the player does intrigue me, can anyone recommend a dac that doesn't break the bank?

As to the CLS and Request suggestion, I have heard the Request extensively and they are a big improvement over the SL3. Upgrading the speakers to either the CLS or Request is probably the last resort after exhausting my path of component upgrades. I would love to own a set of Requests :) I will also look into a BAT vk3i preamp. Has anyone auditioned a vk3i against a Conrad Johnson PV12 or other similar preamps?

Rich
 
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rkc

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Carver tried to get a 'tube' sound by dulling the treble of his components, and I think some of this sound trickled into the Sunfire components. But, I think you can get by with this as the AE3 is the big problem. Personally I think the AE3 is tuned for horn components where it's less airey sound offsets the brittle nature of horns (older horns that is, I've heard some that really impressed me, and a lot of them that didn't). When I connected the AE3 to La Scalas, it sounded great, on the Logans...not so good.




James, could you explain what it is you like about the Klipsch's compared to the Martin Logans? Before I bought the SL3's, I had a set of Klipsch's and always was a fan of horn speakers. If I didn't own Logans, I would probably own a set Khorns, Cornwalls or something similar. Tough to beat the dynamics those speakers present!

Rich
 

kach22i

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zaphod said:
slightly behind and definately above the TV, that the pillows have been placed.
Don't forget the heavy wool blanket or quilt to drape over the face and sides of the TV. You need to lessen the reflective surfaces between the speakers but not behind the speakers. Also experiment with different size/density pillows. I use a thin seat back pillow for vinyl, and a big fluffy pillow for CD listening (above the TV).
 
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jjcarr

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rkc said:
I had the same exact experience with the AES AE3 as you James, I thought it was very dull sounding with no life. I did try new ElectroHarmonix 6sn7s which only set me back about $30. It changed the preamp from dull to ultra detailed.
Try Rich's suggestion first. Since it's only $30 it's the most cost effective tweek and possibly easiest to do. Since Rick noticed the same dull sound and found different tubes helped (this might be 90% of why the Foreplay sounded different) I'd say his suggestion is probably on the money. Worst case you're only out $30...

James
 
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