Rock music sounds bland

Please help me- I feel I’m going a little mad and need some reassurance/advice!

Im now a proud owner of an RP10 with Apheta  hooked up to a Rega Aria phonostage, Nac 202, Nap 200 through PMC OB1’s. I upgraded from my Planar 2 after auditioning the RP10 with a similar system at my dealers’.

My dealer set up the RP10 at home and checked over the rest of my system. I’m generally blown away with the dynamics and musicality of most of my record collection- clearly more involving than my bare CDX2.

I didn’t listen to any “heavy stuff” either at the audition or when the dealer set the system up. I was really expecting that Led Zep, Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon, kasabian etc would pull me in and excite me - this has always been a problem I have found when listening to the CDX2 in my system.

However I am left feeling disappointed with these albums on the RP10- they sound so bland  and I can’t quite believe I’m getting such contrasting results  I understand the importance of getting good vinyl recordings/pressings but I don’t think this is the reason for my problems. 

On the assumption that my source and speakers are good enough to achieve the results I am after, do you think an upgrade on the pre and/ or the power amps will do the trick? Does anyone recognise this problem and has anyone been through this anxiety and come out the other end happy? Any thoughts gratefully received. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Original Post

It's tough to diagnose accurately from afar, so first make sure the deck is perfectly level and your VTF and bias are set just right. If that's all OK then it gets trickier. Sort of something amiss somewhere, but then even your great sounding LPs wouldn't be sounding so great.

However, if we're talking recent mainstream vinyl releases, then the sad fact is that many of them do sound a bit flat. Whether this is from the mastering or the cutting I don't know, but the digital versions are often so dynamically compressed that they hardly give one much hope - and often the vinyl is cut straight from the CD master (it's even been reported that some have been cut from an MP3!). The better the front end, the more this will be revealed. In this case source-first is very much the order of the day, and it starts with the recording and the mastering and the pressing. 

Thanks Richard- I have read a lot about the quality of modern vinyl and re-releases  and half expected that this might be the problem. It is however a bit depressing to think that I have to live with Led Zep III sounding boring - even a remastered version under the watchful eye of Jimmy Page. Could an upgrade on the amps help? 

Hi,

What speaker cables are you using and how are you connected at the speaker end?

I don't have any experience with your speakers or your system but i am well aware of connection practices and notice that the OB1's have triple binding posts. I would assume that how these are connected up will vary quite a bit in terms of performance, for instance by using jumpers or an 'E' type connection or even using the stock shorting plates... 

Just trying to get some more info from you and for the more experienced guys here who can help more, otherwise Richard may have already nailed it for you above. It's just that you say it's the same with the CDX hence my connection query?

 

The Led Zep remasters aren't even the worst offenders - not by a long way - but you should try to get hold of an early original, if possible.  Then compare.  

FWIW, I dug out my old thin Alsdorf pressed  '80s copy of AC DC's Back in Black for a play on my own RP10 - just for testing, of course - and bland it certainly is NOT!!

By the way, how is the coil end of the cantilever aligned with the magnet piece?  With the right VTF it should be perfectly central.  If not, then it won't be sounding right, and needs attention.  One of the great things about the Rega MC cartridge design is that it allows you to see this so clearly.

Hi Gasilver

Assuming your RP10 and amplifier are well set up, you could try adding a hicap to the 202. Or going a step further get a 282, which apparently really swings and gets the most out of the rhythm of the music. The 282 is one of the happy places in the Naim product line that is very musically communicative. You should be able to source a second hand one for a reasonable price, see current thread on the 282.

Kiwi cat posted:

Hi Gasilver

Assuming your RP10 and amplifier are well set up, you could try adding a hicap to the 202. Or going a step further get a 282, which apparently really swings and gets the most out of the rhythm of the music. The 282 is one of the happy places in the Naim product line that is very musically communicative. You should be able to source a second hand one for a reasonable price, see current thread on the 282.

what does adding a hicap to the 202 makes his rock albums sounds better? You must know that 80's rock albums mostly sounds flat and thin.

I would suggest you explain the problem to your dealer who has just installed the RP10. Did you listen to the problematic records at the demo before you bought the RP10. If you did and they sounded fine, I think you could ask the dealer back to investigate at home. If you didn’t then the first step might be to ask your dealer for another demo with the offending records to see if they sound flat there. This should help with identifying where the problem lies. I would certainly investigate further before spending more!

Stephen Tate posted:

Hi,

What speaker cables are you using and how are you connected at the speaker end? 

Exactly Stephen. Blandness re. a certain  style of music would make me look at the cables.

For me, for example, NACA5 is fab for rock and other 'bouncy' music  (you know what I mean ) but Chord Odyssey 2 is much better for more intimate Classical music.

Suggest that the OP thinks about cables.

RP10 with Apheta and Aria should not sound ‘bland’.

Several things to check:

* Aria should be as far away from power supplies as possible - especially NAPSC (if you have one)

* Correct settings for the Apheta are pasted below

* Not sure where you are located - if in Europe (outside of the UK) - check phasing on your mains plugs - they often tend to get mixed up

* Interconnect from Aria to NAP > best to test a decent RCA > DIN - at this level of a turntable you are looking at Sarum T or Superlumina I’m afraid  - although Chord Signature (the black one) also sounded quite right.

* Antiskating on Rega’s can be a bit fiddly to setup - is there any way you can borrow a setup LP?

* Aria can be and should be plugged into the same circuit as your NAIM boxes (no power conditioners - they kill the sound). RP10’s power supply shoul be ideally plugged in to a separate main socket / circuit

* Try experimenting with a tracking force weight - I’d recommend around 1.8 to 1.9 g

* There is also a neat trick to setting up an RP10 (but this one is best left to a skilled expert) - you can set the trackign force weight to 0 and ballance the arm using the balance weight. This way the spring inside the arm’s support is loose and allows the arm to float a bit freer (but that the icing on the cake, with a sweet cherry on top). 

 

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Wow - thanks guys - a lot  to take in here. 

The dealer set everything up for me so I’m really hoping there is nothing amiss. I partly went for the RP10 to avoid the need for tweaking it- if necessary I will call him back out to recheck. 

I’m using NACA5 speaker cable and jumpers on the binding posts.

I’ve just listened to Back in Black on CD Richard - sounds great through the CDX2 so Would expect the RP10 will smoke it-  am just about to order a copy through Discogs- thanks for the recommendation! 

I’m using Nordost Blue Heavens RCA TO RCA - I’ve read somewhere else that RCA to Din makes a difference- how are you connecting yours up Richard? (And may I ask what amps you are using). 

The system is on its own electrical circuit and each component is plugged into its own socket. 

I guess the sensible next move is to re- listen at the dealers (thanks CDB) to ensure nothing wrong at home and then go from there  

I’m very much hoping that my LED ZEP experiences will improve soon! I’ve read with interest the thread on the NAC282 -does anyone else think this could improve things?

Thanks again for all the great advice.  

 

I think it may be significant that neither CD nor vinyl do the trick. Given this, I would focus either on the recordings as others have mentioned, though that would seem more likely if it was odd albums not all, or focus after the source. Even with basic interconnects and speaker cables (which for NAP200 is a required minimum inductance) the OB1s should be well capable of making rock music move you, however I suspect the NAP200 may be a little underpowered, and I don’t know how good is its grip on those speakers, so I wonder if it is worth trying to hear with a better amp.

I'm afraid as Richard stated above this may just be one of the pitfalls of owning such a wonderful deck they can be very revealing of badly pressed, badly recorded or badly mastered records and unfortunately some very new reissues fall into this bracket.  Chunks of my collection sound very, very average especially the Jamaican pressed early 80's reggae and late 80's U.S House and I too have many very disappointing modern reissues.

Stick to early original presses and when they are to expensive look out for releases by specialist labels like Analogue Productions, Audio Fidelity, Classic Records, Speakers Corner, Pure Pleasure and lots of Mobile Fidelity where the original analogue masters have been used and then remastered, cut and pressed by people who take a lot of care some of my best recordings are the Blue Note reissues by Music Matters lots of these specialist releases can be expensive between £30 - £40 but it's worth it.

Ps. If you can't find a decent vinyl copy then I'm afraid you may have to stick to CD. I have started to pick from Charity shops some LP's on CD that sound a bit sketchy on my deck I then rip them and put them on a usb stick.

Also how old is the Alpheta 2 because some cartridges take an age to burn in.  

I have just made two changes to my system because I wasn't happy with my vinyl replay. I changed back to Nac A5 from Tellurium Q Black and from a Benz Micro Ace SL to a Dynavector 20x2L and so far am much happier. Sometimes a new component into a system can fundamentally change the sound and a few tweaks are needed.

Funnily enough when I had a 202/200 my then Digital source the ND5XS sounded fine but vinyl could sound a bit muddy and so I swapped the Nac A5 for Tellurium Q Black and it cured the muddiness but I've now had to do the complete opposite for the same reason.

The 202/200 is known for sounding it's best with an analogue source so your system cannot fail to sound excellent if set up right and fed the right media.

Good Luck.

Adam Zielinski posted:

* There is also a neat trick to setting up an RP10 (but this one is best left to a skilled expert) - you can set the trackign force weight to 0 and ballance the arm using the balance weight. This way the spring inside the arm’s support is loose and allows the arm to float a bit freer (but that the icing on the cake, with a sweet cherry on top). 

 

 

You don't have to be an expert to apply this trick, You just need a cartridge scale. Put the tracking force dial on zero and adjust the tracking force by turning the dial until you reach the desired value on a digital scale.

I am afraid your problem lies somewhere else. As you climb on the audiophile ladder, you reach a higher level of resolution and transparency, but you can lose some emotion. And yes, bad pressings are ruthlessly revealed.

rmatosev posted:
Adam Zielinski posted:

* There is also a neat trick to setting up an RP10 (but this one is best left to a skilled expert) - you can set the trackign force weight to 0 and ballance the arm using the balance weight. This way the spring inside the arm’s support is loose and allows the arm to float a bit freer (but that the icing on the cake, with a sweet cherry on top). 

 

You don't have to be an expert to apply this trick, You just need a cartridge scale. Put the tracking force dial on zero and adjust the tracking force by turning the dial until you reach the desired value on a digital scale.

I am afraid your problem lies somewhere else. As you climb on the audiophile ladder, you reach a higher level of resolution and transparency, but you can lose some emotion. And yes, bad pressings are ruthlessly revealed.

 

Just to clarify - the 1st paragraph is from me. Para 2 and 3 are from @rmatosev

Bob the Builder posted:

Ps. If you can't find a decent vinyl copy then I'm afraid you may have to stick to CD. I have started to pick from Charity shops some LP's on CD that sound a bit sketchy on my deck I then rip them and put them on a usb stick.

 

However, I understood the OP to say he didn’t find rock music engaging through his CD player.

Regarding source vinyl quality, buy one of those LPs secondhand as an original first pressing - plenty available on a certain online aution site - and if that doesn’t sound as you expect then either it is your expectation that is out (but not so if it sounded ok at the dealer), or something in your system - and the fact that CD doesnt sound right concerns me. The system includes the room, as serious room effects can make music sound bad.

When it engaged you at the dealer, was the audition of it your system? If not, go back to dealer and listen with your system, taking whatever the dealer doesn’t have. If it sounds right there like it did when you auditioned the RP10 then its your room. If that is not easy, try playing with room layout, and/or get a copy of REW software (free) and a suitable measuring microphone and check the response. 

Or get the dealer to visit you and investigate.

There's a guy doing tt related reviews on youtube, and after getting a Schiit Mani, I kind of trust his preferences. About the aria, he says that as a mm pre itsi wonderful, but MC is nothing to write home about. I think for that price category he raves about the avid pulsus. So the pre might be worth looking into, if it's not the recordings or speaker cables.

Yes Agree with IB re room set up it can make or break a system especially if you are of the minimalist persuasion. 

Luckily we’re a bit more traditional when it comes to decor so although our room is quite small we have lots of soft furnishings, shelves with books and a big deep rug which all help. Lots of soft round edges are good where as hard corners and angles are not so good all IMO of course I’m no expert

Gasilver, I have my RP10 connected to a Superline and Naim pre/power.  Your Nordost Blue Heaven i/c may not be the best match.  Worth trying just the standard Naim RCA - DIN5 i/c (See FAQ or Chord alternative) in its place.  

Also, as Adam has suggested, what the RP10 sits on is important.

For all that, it may well be that if the problem affects both CD and LP then it's something more fundamental such as speaker/room issue or the speaker cabling.  Sometimes these things take a bit of time to get just right, so don't make any rash system changes for the moment and keep an open mind about optimising your current setup.

Richard Dane posted:

Gasilver, I have my RP10 connected to a Superline and Naim pre/power.  Your Nordost Blue Heaven i/c may not be the best match.  Worth trying just the standard Naim RCA - DIN5 i/c (See FAQ or Chord alternative) in its place.  

Also, as Adam has suggested, what the RP10 sits on is important.

For all that, it may well be that if the problem affects both CD and LP then it's something more fundamental such as speaker/room issue or the speaker cabling.  Sometimes these things take a bit of time to get just right, so don't make any rash system changes for the moment and keep an open mind about optimising your current setup.

Setup and cable dressing make a big difference:

-Keep power supplies/amps a good distance from pre and sources 

-Make sure interconnect cables etc don’t touch and get Burndy and ICs supple

- MC cartridges and phono stage are very sensitive, and need to be kept as far away from other boxes as possible

- good racks make a difference

-Dedicated radial is important and plug order can make difference.

These are often neglected by newbies, but make a big difference. You have superb sources, so get the best from them.

Phil

I'd be looking at the amplification or speakers. They OB1's like a bit of poke and the 200 isn't really enough for these speakers. If you really like the OB1's then I'd look at improving the amplification and if sticking with Naim, a 282 (Hicap or Supercap) / 250 would be where I'd start looking as a minimum. If sticking with the 202/200, then take a look at the Kudos / Neat range which should deliver what you are looking for. Worth going to your dealer and having a listen to a few combinations to see what you find works for you and then go from there.

James

 

 

Gasilver,

Out of interest what pressings of Led Zeppelin albums do you have?

I used to have the orange/green labels of the mid/late 70's, replaced them with plum/red labels a dramatic improvement

The new remastered copies are even worse.

I doubt there is a significant problem with your system as when I had 202/200 Led Zeppelin didn't sound bland.

 

Innocent Bystander posted:
Bob the Builder posted:

Ps. If you can't find a decent vinyl copy then I'm afraid you may have to stick to CD. I have started to pick from Charity shops some LP's on CD that sound a bit sketchy on my deck I then rip them and put them on a usb stick.

 

However, I understood the OP to say he didn’t find rock music engaging through his CD player.

Regarding source vinyl quality, buy one of those LPs secondhand as an original first pressing - plenty available on a certain online aution site - and if that doesn’t sound as you expect then either it is your expectation that is out (but not so if it sounded ok at the dealer), or something in your system - and the fact that CD doesnt sound right concerns me. The system includes the room, as serious room effects can make music sound bad.

When it engaged you at the dealer, was the audition of it your system? If not, go back to dealer and listen with your system, taking whatever the dealer doesn’t have. If it sounds right there like it did when you auditioned the RP10 then its your room. If that is not easy, try playing with room layout, and/or get a copy of REW software (free) and a suitable measuring microphone and check the response. 

Or get the dealer to visit you and investigate.

He said he listened to Back in Black on CD and it sounded great.

A good system should make all music enjoyable. Tweaks are all well and good but its really a trip back to the dealers to sort a mismatched system.

 

 

 

Guinnless posted:
.

.

He said he listened to Back in Black on CD and it sounded great.

A good system should make all music enjoyable. Tweaks are all well and good but its really a trip back to the dealers to sort a mismatched system.

 

 

 

So he did I missed that, though previously he had said “I was really expecting that Led Zep, Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon, kasabian etc would pull me in and excite me - this has always been a problem I have found when listening to the CDX2 in my system”. you say, a good system should make all music sound enjoyable, though of course a poor recording can spoil some aspects of it - but surely those CDs can’t all be poor recordings lacking excitement?

Gasilver posted:

I’m using NACA5 speaker cable and jumpers on the binding posts. 

Ok. Well as long as the jumpers are properly made up then at least these can be eliminated as candidates for the bland sound.. You say the CDX2 is now singing so i guess this also confirms the cables are good.

I'd ask your dealer to pay you a visit and draw from their experiences and then go from there.

 

Would really take James N advice, pmc are 87db and 6ohm so not easy load and 200 not most powerful amp.

i noticed same with esp complex rock when undergunning on power vs speaker, and with more power and easy speaker its all punchy.

easy to test by demo of 250.2..

br Lars

On the CD side for now.

You should have a bunch of cables that came with the Naim kit, are you using them or the Nordost stuff? The Naim cables don’t look much but they won’t get in the way of the likes of LedZep.

How is your system arranged? Rack, etc and what else is plugged in nearby on the circuit, if you have switching mode power supplies nearby they could be contributing to the problem but it’s easy to test.

Once you have the CDs rocking turn your attention to the vinyl but if you can’t make a CDX2 rock there’s something wrong with the system or setup.

 

I think I agree with the camp questioning the pressings - I've had some stinkers and, it's no consolation, but my maxed out LP12 doesn't make them sound any better, if anything it shows up how bad they really are.  Suggestion: before you start tinkering with cables and amps play what you know to be a great rock pressing from the 70's or 80's.  May not be your cup of tea but I would use Joe Jackson's album  "I'm Your Man" (analogue) or Ry Cooder "Bob Til You Drop" (Digital recording). You can buy them inexpensively from a well known internet record marketplace (not Fleaby) for not too much.  They are both cracking recordings and sound extremely involving and exciting on my kit.

There is hope! If you look at the Burning Shed web-site and type in 'In Absentia' (Porcupine Tree) you'll see in the info:-

The album has been remastered by Steven Wilson and the 2017 master has features noticeably less compression and limiting in order to provide a more dynamic listening experience.  

Sounds promising. It's one of my favourite PT albums and my pre-order is in (release date 9th March). 'Deadwing' apparently receives similar treatment (with a 23rd February release date).

It's a shame that Steven Wilson's 'To the Bone' sounds as dead as a dead thing having a day out with the undertaker. Strange, when all SW's other recently remastered material sounds very good. If you're looking for a foot in the door with classic Porcupine Tree material, look no further than the 2016 remastered 'Stars Die' double CD compilation. Nearly 2½ hours of great music (superbly remastered) for only £8.99

To the OP - The RP10/Apheta is a very fine sounding turntable, but it does respond to isolation. Try a sheet of HDF or glass atop three nuts and ball-bearings. Cheap and generally very effective.

The Aria sounds a bit polite to me with some carts but it does seem to have  good synergy with the lively and incisive sounding Apheta.

To paraphrase previous good advice above; for the best sounding classic rock albums head over to Discogs and pay decent money for originals.

Good luck.

John.

 

 

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