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Bol

Would a new amp help?

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I have been bothered lately with how poor the sound of classical orchestral music (symphonies, operas etc.) is on my system, and am wondering whether getting a new amplifier would help.

I currently have an ancient Sony integrated amplifier from the 1980's.  It is connected to Cambridge Audio AXC35 CD player, which is just a step above the most basic model from Cambridge Audio.  Another feature of my setup that may be relevant is that the amplifier runs through a current transformer.  I am in the UK, and the amplifier was brought here from the US when I moved close to 4 years ago.  The CD player I brought with it died, and that is why I have the new Cambridge Audio CD player.  I am wondering whether getting a matching amplifier (AXA35) from Cambridge Audio would improve the sound significantly.  The sound on my system for small group jazz and classical chamber music sounds fine to me.  It is only when I play orchestral music that I find the music muffled and opaque.

Any advice you have would be much appreciated.  I am not an audiophile by any means.  I have consciously avoided becoming one because I can't afford to be.  But for some reason, lately, playing orchestral music has become a source of frustration.  Thanks in advance for your opinion.

Edited by Bol

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1 hour ago, Bol said:

I have been bothered lately with how poor the sound of classical orchestral music (symphonies, operas etc.) is on my system, and am wondering whether getting a new amplifier would help.

I currently have an ancient Sony integrated amplifier from the 1980's.  It is connected to Cambridge Audio AXC35 CD player, which is just a step above the most basic model from Cambridge Audio.  Another feature of my setup that may be relevant is that the amplifier runs through a current transformer.  I am in the UK, and the amplifier was brought here from the US when I moved close to 4 years ago.  The CD player I brought with it died, and that is why I have the new Cambridge Audio CD player.  I am wondering whether getting a matching amplifier (AXA35) from Cambridge Audio would improve the sound significantly.  The sound on my system for small group jazz and classical chamber music sounds fine to me.  It is only when I play orchestral music that I find the music muffled and opaque.

Any advice you have would be much appreciated.  I am not an audiophile by any means.  I have consciously avoided becoming one because I can't afford to be.  But for some reason, lately, playing orchestral music has become a source of frustration.  Thanks in advance for your opinion.

You might also want to post your question on the Hoffman forum.  They have some very knowledgeable people over there. 

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Your speakers likely have more to do with your sound than your amp. If you list the specifics of your system, i.e. Sony model number, Cambridge Audio model number, Speaker make/model number, we could better understand the interactions between these items.

For instance, if you have very large, inefficient speakers and you're trying to drive it with an underpowered amp at high volume, you're probably not gong to like the result.

Also, yo need to tell us what it is you don't like about your playback. Too little bass? Too much treble? Not enough of either? The more specific, the better.

And I would not necessarily recommend the SH forums for audio advice. That place has a lot of snake oil salesmen who couldn't build an affordable system if their life depended on it.

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How do your symphonies and operas sound when heard through headphones?

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Thanks for the replies.  The specifics of the system are as follows:

Cambridge Audio AXC35 CD player

Sony STR-D365 Amplifier/Receiver

Acoustic Research AR15 speakers

I don't have any headphones, I'm afraid, other than the basic iPhone headphones.  

As for the specifics of dissatisfaction with the sound, I'm not sure I can be more specific than the gestural complaint I had.  I think I would like to hear more precision and clarity than I hear.  The different instruments appear to blend into each other.  This is what I meant by saying that the sound is "muffled" and "opaque".  And I do think that the there is an absence of high and low frequencies too, but am not sure.  Sorry to be so uninformative about this.  Any tips/guesses would be appreciated.

 

Edited by Bol

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How old are you? Have you had your hearing tested lately?

Serious question, high frequency hearing loss comes with age for a lot of us, and the results you describe are what that sounds like.

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18 hours ago, Bol said:

Thanks for the replies.  The specifics of the system are as follows:

Cambridge Audio AXC35 CD player

Sony STR-D365 Amplifier/Receiver

Acoustic Research AR15 speakers

I don't have any headphones, I'm afraid, other than the basic iPhone headphones.  

As for the specifics of dissatisfaction with the sound, I'm not sure I can be more specific than the gestural complaint I had.  I think I would like to hear more precision and clarity than I hear.  The different instruments appear to blend into each other.  This is what I meant by saying that the sound is "muffled" and "opaque".  And I do think that the there is an absence of high and low frequencies too, but am not sure.  Sorry to be so uninformative about this.  Any tips/guesses would be appreciated.

 

A Sony STR-D365 (Manual here: https://www.sony.com/electronics/support/res/manuals/W001/W0010459M.pdf) is rated at 100 Watts/channel, which is more than enough power for most normal audio settings. These older Sony amps can sometimes sound bright, but that's not what you're describing. Looking at the specs, you might need to check your step-up voltage transformer to make sure that it can deliver ~200 Watts (~1.7 Amps). Some less expensive step-ups might not be able to "keep up" with this amp if they can't supply that current quickly. However, I still don't think this is your problem because you are probably not cranking up these small bookshelf speakers... which brings me to...

I still think your money would be better spent on upgrading your speakers. If the sound is fine for Jazz combo or Classical chamber music but can't seem to reproduce the full spectrum of an orchestra, you probably need an additional driver for the mid-range. I would recommend auditioning some larger speakers, maybe even a nice 3 way speaker, by bringing the orchestral piece that you want to hear. See if you can find an affordable pair of speakers to replace these fairly-inefficient (90 dB) 2-way AR15's.

BTW - bigger, 3-way speakers does not mean louder. Yes, in general, they can produce louder sounds, but you shouldn't have to crank them up to get the better frequency response that you're looking for. But that brings up why you should audition speakers before buying. Go to a shop and listen at your normal listening levels. Some larger 3-way speakers sound fine at lower listening levels and some don't. One of the dumbest speaker purchases I ever made was a pair of Klipsch Fortes. These speakers could really "crank it up" but didn't sound very good at normal listening levels. I don't miss them at all.

18 hours ago, JSngry said:

How old are you? Have you had your hearing tested lately?

Serious question, high frequency hearing loss comes with age for a lot of us, and the results you describe are what that sounds like.

Unfortunately, I know how true this can be. Thanks for nothing, Foghat. My ears didn't work right for 3 days after that concert.

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Thank you for really helpful set of recommendations.  As soon as it is safer to venture out and visit audio shops, I will do as you recommend.  

I am a middle aged man, and I think my hearing is fine.  But I will check when I visit my doctor one of these days.

Thanks again.

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20 minutes ago, Bol said:

I am a middle aged man, and I think my hearing is fine.  

We all do... :g

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