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PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2015 10:50 pm 
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Joined: Fri Mar 30, 2007 7:04 pm
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Location: vancouver, BC, CA
So it's come to this…
I have concluded that it is impossible for me to get really decent sound in my current apartment. And that leads me to think it's a waste of money to have so much value tied up in components that can't perform as they should.

The equipment all performs excellent, at least outside of my home. I've had my Simaudio integrated and Totem Hawks for several years, and I know they work great. Cabling is Kimber and Cardas; PS Audio power conditioning, California Audio Labs CD transport into Wyred4Sound DAC1 —all work great. And the newest addition, this month I got a good deal on an even better Classe integrated which I also have heard sound amazing.

I've had all this stuff for several years (Wyred4Sound added in 2013, the Classe 2 weeks ago), but
Since getting married a few years ago, I have not really used my system for any real music listening at all: my wife is typically in the living room, as that is really the only space we have that isn't a kitchen or bedroom.
I live in an apartment, and in our modest-sized living room, there is really only one place that my speakers can go. (I can move them a few inches here or there, but their location is pretty locked-in by the realities of real life).
The speakers sit 6' apart on either side of the component shelf / TV stand, and the listening position is about 7.5' away. It's bewildering to me that in what seems like a reasonable set-up, my system sounds so unlistenable.

This month I've had some access recently to play around with my gear at a place where some of it has been stored, which is like a commercial space (former bakery): high ceilings, all hard surfaces, and tall shelves full of stuff.
With very little optimization, in that space I have heard MY equipment sound awesome —among the best sound I have ever heard. Incredible detail and imaging, and so effortless and transparent and balanced.
My friend who was there was struck by hearing things he hadn't heard in familiar recordings.

And then last week I took it all home, set it up, and I literally thought something was wrong with it (except I knew there wasn't). There was a crazy, extreme bass node booming, and a weird suck-out in the mids. And within the space constraints I have, there was nothing I could do to change it. Back into storage the Totems went.

For curiosity, I wondered what sound I would get with speakers that just don't have much low end. I pulled the Paradigm Atom v4 off my desktop and set those on some stands from my storage room. They sounded great: better than on my desktop (as they should with $6000 retail value of other gear feeding them!)
So I've established that $200 worth of speakers can perform. Then I borrowed some B&W DM302, and they sounded even better — $350 worth of small speakers can sound like $350 in my living room.

On my day off yesterday I was back at the commercial space, took my Classe amp/ DAC/ transport, and we were playing around with everything. It just always sounds great. And tonight I brought it back home, hooked it all up again here, put in a CD, and immediately had to get up and make sure the speaker cables weren't connected out-of-phase (they weren't), because what I heard was SO completely different from why I had been hearing all day.

Since getting into hifi 20 years ago, I've never done much to deal with room acoustics (I never had to). I've experienced changes in speaker placement making a difference between good and excellent sound, but I've never had to deal with awful sound from excellent components.

I've spent a bit of time this week researching room acoustics / treatments, and it seems like I am out of luck. I simply don't have a way to place furniture (or my speakers) any differently, and intrusive room treatments are simply not an option in a small apartment shared with a wife.

Am I wrong in concluding that as long as I'm living here, a really good system is a waste of money? At this point I'm thinking I should sell everything off, and just get some "cheap and cheerful" budget gear.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 1:22 am 
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Location: Oakville, ON, CA
sure, sell off the good stuff for the cheap.

then when you move you get to purchase the good stuff again.

are you planning on living there forever?


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 1:47 am 
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Location: St. John's, NL, CA
What's on your floors? That kind of problem can be caused by floor reflections. Rugs might help, or (if the problem is in fact floor reflections) something like the PSB Synchrony 1, which is designed with floor reflections in mind. But a bit of diagnostic and detective work is needed I think. Maybe get a hold of Stereophile's Test CDs. Also, can you post a few pics of your system in place in the living room? Someone might be able to suggest something if they saw the layout.


Last edited by EL34 on Tue Jul 07, 2015 2:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 2:23 am 
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Location: SW, ON, CA
Perhaps an audiophile set of headphones is the answer for you at this stage. You can have the audiophile experience with your equipment, but take the environment out of the equation.

Paul

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 2:31 am 
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Location: Toronto, ON, CA
I feel for you, but I can't help but also feel that you're whining just a bit :)
My suggestion would be to sell the Hawks, which are easily replaceable. The go out, having done some research online perhaps, and get some speakers that fit your room better. I am listening in a very small room and have really good luck with the sound I am getting despite having speakers that should, by anyone's imagination, sound terrible.
Perhaps some stand mounted, front or no ported speakers would work...or maybe a set of Audionote or other corner-loaded speakers would work better.
Don't give up though. In the end, you'll regret it...and at some point you'll move.
Byron

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 2:37 am 
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Location: Welland, ON, CA
It seems to me that the main issue is the performance of the Totems in your room. You mention that at least two other pairs of stand mounts sounded good in your living room. That should be where your focus is. If you can figure out some way to acquire new speakers or simply live with the Atoms for now until such time as new speakers can be purchased or you move. Lot's of good stand mount speakers out there.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 3:28 am 
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Location: West of GTA Boonies, ON, CA
+1 to the prior post that its not the whole system but just the TOTEMs you should move out and replace with more suitable offerings ...likely quality-build non-Totem standmounts.....

I've owned both the ARROs and FORESTs in prior systems (both since sold off in favour of other brands that fared much better in my listening environment) and I can speak from personal experience ...one size does not fit all.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 3:56 am 
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Location: Burlington, ON, CA
I hear 2 things.

One is that the Totems don't fly right in your room, but you have tried other speakers and they do. Could be worth exploring as suggested already.

The other is that you don't listen much since getting married.

I have headphones I use when the house is not empty and I need a music fix. I prefer my main system, but the headphones are excellent when needed.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 4:29 am 
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Location: Cobourg, ON, CA
+3 for compact monitors. Totems in my experience can throw hissy fits if not set up in ideal conditions. In the past I have run Winds and Mani2 Signature and felt they did reasonable well in odds rooms. On the other hand Totems Hawks and Forest like many tower type designs can really sound awful when they lack all that midrange magic like your description. Don't give up yet...even the most difficult rooms can be tamed with a little patience and work. Start with getting rid of those towers and things will improve.

Good Luck.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 4:46 am 
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I don't hear whining, I hear despair ! :cry: :wink:

The best room treatment I know of is to have a big room to start with. Absent that, I think you have to go to smaller speakers.

When I moved out on my own I had to deal with a much smaller room. Floorstanders were out. To take away the sting I invested in an exceptional pair of standmounts. I was lucky to find these, and now I don't miss the old big ones at all.

But room treatment was part of the success, and I had no live-in partner to please. I could do anything I wanted, but I wanted a nice-looking place ( where I could invite girls :P ). So intrusive, techy-looking treatments were out.

The system has to be in the living room. Given its size, absorption is going to work better than diffusion as a treatment approach. There is a white wool flatweave rug hanging four inches off the ceiling, a wool Bokhara on the floor, another one on the far wall. There's a 5 x 8 pieced wool rug hanging on the wall between the speakers, and I've commissioned a local textile artist to make a work to go on the front of it. I don't think you even notice the bass trap ; it's a superchunk type that goes from floor to ceiling in one of the corners, but it's faced with bleached white jute and fronted by a narrow skeletal shelf unit made of pale oiled wood. IKEA was my friend.

Unfortunately you do notice the speakers, because they only come in shiny piano black. I had to accessorize the rest of the room with the occasional black piece to help them blend in. ( Using accessories like a Target turntable shelf. :roll: ) However the speakers image best when they are placed wide apart, so they go along the long wall and don't make you visualize the room as single-purpose.

I describe all this to say that there is hope. There are truly wonderful-sounding small speakers available. ( I am sure I will never want to replace mine. ) Human creativity is limitless. Apartment decorating styles today tend to be defined and hard-surfaced, which is a pity, and if you are stuck with that, you may have to go for headphones and a small ambient-sound system for more social moments. But if you can get in any softer stuff, pay attention to its visual appeal to your partner, and put it more or less in the right place, you may get a room that doesn't look or sound like a compromise much at all.

Quote:
intrusive room treatments are simply not an option


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 4:48 am 
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Location: Markham, ON, CA
Could this possibly help?

http://www.dspeaker.com/en/products/20-dual-core.shtml


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 5:28 am 
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Location: Richmond Hill, ON, CA
I have speakers on my desk, but on small stands. Get yours up.
I suspect that some absorbent panels would help a lot. What I put in my darkroom is far from high end, but some old carpet on the floor, and coarse cork decorative tiles in the corners made the acoustics decent. Perhaps something behind your speakers, and in the corners would help, without being intrusive.
If you can find someone local who has any experience with this, it would be worth getting an opinion, at least.

Cheers,
Alec


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 5:47 am 
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There are many great suggestions and possible remedies to the conundrum that you present here. I too was living in an apartment before I purchased my home and I loved to have floor standers but found that they either were overkill or like you, they just didn't sound quite right. I then purchased a set of ATC SMC19 bookshelf monitors and voila, I found that they sounded and performed excellent in the space constraints I was dealing with. Bookshelf monitors have always been known for their lovely mid-range capabilities and performance. This may be the option you are destined for. There are many great speakers to choose from in a plethora of design philosophies that you may find and become your solution. Good luck and if nothing else works then there is the headphone path as well, which become minimalistic and let's you have your own piece of audiophile sound and takes up much less living area.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 6:17 am 
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Location: Toronto, ON, CA
Do you have a TV ?

The big Zvox, designed as a TV sound support device actually sounds quite reasonable for about $500.00. THis is one possible path to some surprisingly decent sound at a modest price while you decide what to do with your gear.
Acoustic problems such as this are a **** and can be properly resolved with meaningful wall and ceiling treatments + mandatory eq.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 6:39 am 
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Almost any room response can be corrected with absorber panels, diffusers and bass traps.


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