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My Audio gear dilemma

Wharfedale Linton Heritage Speakers

firearm12

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Hello Guys,


I didn't have much experience in hifi and prepared my first setup about a year ago. Much of the gear I got was sourced used/second hand. I have listened to this setup extensively for an year but now I am in a big dilemma to find the weakest link in this setup to upgrade. My gear and audio flow is as follows.

Foobar (PC usb) -> Asus Xonar U7 (SPDIF out) -> Arcam rlink DAC (analog Line out)-> Marantz PM8003

Then Marantz amp is connected to Dali Mentor Menuet bookshelf Speakers. Due to lack of bass, I added later an Elac SUB 111.2 ESP subwoofer (speaker level input).


My collection is all FLAC/mp3 files. I listen to folk/rock songs of 60s-70s and Bollywood songs old and new, also some classical Indian music

The sound signature is generally warm,dark and with a good staging and airy sound. Its as per my like. Below are my my concerns


1) sometimes the bass is just non-existent in songs, especially bollywood 90s songs. For same songs, my bose sounddock produces good bass.
2) the setup sounds fine if the song has less instruments in it e.g. folk/instrumental songs, but becomes all muddled up as I move it to more rock based songs. All the bass/vocals/instuments gets mixed.
3) Listening at low volume does not sound enriching. I need to step up volume to make the sound better whereas I like to listen in low volumes. I dont know why its like that.

Considering my lack of hifi knowledge, can anyone please guide me and suggest if I can get some relief by upgrading DAC/speaker/amp. Can this be a result of these different hardware not gelling together. I am ready to upgrade but dont know what to upgrade in the chain and if it would benefit me or not. Can these issues be solved by using a higher grade DAC than arcam rlink. What DAC is recommended for upgradation. Or shall I attribute these issues are to low quality recordings.
 

aashish351

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A lot of your concerns point to the quality of files/recordings and also to the connection between PC and DAC.

1) There is a Sounddock in my house as well (you can't win against family). I can't stand the wobbly bloated bass. So what you are hearing on that is not actually there in the song. Another proof is that your 'better' system is not producing unnatural bass despite a subwoofer in the mix. Files/recordings could be the issue here.

2)Arcam makes fine DACs but I did not find the rPAC to be up to the mark. rLink seems to be in the same category. Considering your downstream equipment, a proper USB DAC will go a long way. I am not too sure about the Asus U7 spdif connection as well. If possible, try a good USB-to-SPDIF converter along with your rLink. Of course, all this is useful only if you are sure that source files are of proper quality. Just because it is a FLAC file, it is not guaranteed to be good. What is the source of the FLAC file itself? the muddling of instruments/complex music could be due to the D-to-A chain or the files or both. And there is a chance that next two points are the culprits in this.

3) Dali Mentor Menuet may be small, but they don't seem to be particularly easy to drive from their specifications of 86dB and 4-Ohm. The 70W at 8 ohm, 100W at 4 ohm Marantz might be struggling despite having the power rating between 20-120W recommended for the speaker.

4) So are your speakers connected through the Subwoofer OR are you using both speaker terminal A & B on your amp? If it is former, I would strongly advise you to do latter. Actually, if it were me, there would be no subwoofer! 60Hz of Dali in-room should do good in a small room. What is your room size?
 

firearm12

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Thanks very much @aashish351 for the elaborate analysis. I too suspect it can be a dac issue. At that time when getting the gear, I already had an Asus U7 on my PC and was getting a very good deal on a used rlink. So bought it and used the Asus U7 for USB to spdif conversion. But now I am thinking to move to a dedicated USB dac.


1) I understand that recording quality makes lot difference in the sound output of a system. I am confused as to whether to judge a system by how they represent good quality recordings or how they perform when recordings are not that good?

2) Arcam rlink may not be best of dacs but I am not able to decide which DAC will be a substantial improvement over it considering price. There are so many brands to confuse and its not possible to audition all of them with my system. It would be helpful if you could guide me to choose a DAC over rlink. This would also get rid of the Asus U7 from my system if I choose to upgrade.

3) What should be the ideal power output of an amp to drive speakers with 86db/4ohms and how its calculated (pls excuse me for asking a stupid question). I love the Mentors and they are very melodic to me and detailed. I dont see any harshness even if I push the volume up. How do I know if the amp is not able to drive them.

4) The mentors lacked bass as to my taste so I added a sub. My room size is 14x11 feet. Presently. the speakers and subwoofer both are connected to Terminal A of the amp in parallel. Should I try to connect the sub to Terminal B and set the output to A+B
 

Mayank Shah

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Fully agree with aashish351 - great input. Sound dock and other setups like Samsung / LG / Sony HT systems and sound bars produce artificial bass which we tend to think as "superb effect".

Dali Menuet are good speakers and sound good with Marantz. For a medium sized room this combo should be room filling.

Take a look at your wiring. Basically only 2 pairs of wires should be coming out of your amp from Speaker A. 1 pair (L) to Speaker In (L) on the sub and 1 pair (R) to speaker In (R) on the sub. On your Elac there are 3 pairs In and 3 pairs Out. Use the extreme pairs on the left and right - leave the center ones.

From your Sub run 1 pair from Speaker (R) out to Dali right and 1 pair from Speaker (L) out to dali left. from here on, it is a matter of fine tuning the cross over point and sub volume to something which sounds best to your ears. One setting on the sub will not give desired effect on different songs though.

Alternately you can use a RCA Y cable. 1 end of this Y cable will go into your amp's pre-out (2 RCA) and the other end (1 RCA) will go into your sub's LFE IN.

Your Asus per se is a good device with an onboard DAC. Why are you using the arcam together? Connect your laptop with an USB type B cable with Asus. Run 2 RCA interconnects from ASUS L & R out to your amp and 1 decent subwoofer cable from ASUS "Side" to LFE IN on your sub.

Hope this helps. I am sure more experienced FM's will chime in and correct me if I am wrong.
 
M

mpw

Guest
What are your subwoofer settings ?

Drop the A+B plan...

Try a different DAC

I have heard the mentor Menuet and like them

What is the speaker positioning like ?

A picture will help

Which speaker cables do u use ?


Regards
 
Last edited by a moderator:

firearm12

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Thanks Mayank for the inputs,

Currently I am using the extreme pairs on the left and right on the ELAC sub which connect to L and R respectively of Terminal A on the amp

I have not connected the speakers from the subwoofer output. The speakers are directly connected to Terminal A on the amp. I did a whole lot of research on this at that time and majority of opinion was that its better to connect the speakers directly to the amp as opposed to connect them through the sub.

I havent tried RCA Y cable to connect from amp to LFE in of the sub. I can try this.

Asus has an onboard DAC and I have earlier tried to connect it directly to the amp through its analog outputs but the sound that comes out is not quite as as refined as its through arcam. It lacks the finesse and so I prefer arcam over asus.
 

aashish351

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1) I understand that recording quality makes lot difference in the sound output of a system. I am confused as to whether to judge a system by how they represent good quality recordings or how they perform when recordings are not that good?

2) Arcam rlink may not be best of dacs but I am not able to decide which DAC will be a substantial improvement over it considering price. There are so many brands to confuse and its not possible to audition all of them with my system. It would be helpful if you could guide me to choose a DAC over rlink. This would also get rid of the Asus U7 from my system if I choose to upgrade.

3) What should be the ideal power output of an amp to drive speakers with 86db/4ohms and how its calculated (pls excuse me for asking a stupid question). I love the Mentors and they are very melodic to me and detailed. I dont see any harshness even if I push the volume up. How do I know if the amp is not able to drive them.

4) The mentors lacked bass as to my taste so I added a sub. My room size is 14x11 feet. Presently. the speakers and subwoofer both are connected to Terminal A of the amp in parallel. Should I try to connect the sub to Terminal B and set the output to A+B

1) Good question with not an easy answer. It is a personal decision. I will always go in for the former - a system that shines with good quality recordings.
2) Not in the best position right now to answer that question myself. As you can see from my signature, I am also confused and seaching. However, from what I have heard till now up to 40K budget, Audiolab Q-DAC was the best, followed by HRT, and Arcam. Of course, the Q-DAC was twice as expensive as the other two. It really depends on your budget. I would not bother with anything below the Audiolab Q-DAC, Arcam irDAC, Musical Fidelity M1DAC, M2Tech Evo, Rega DAC range. There is an excellent Wadia 121 on sale on HiFiAds.
3) Even 20 W may be enough. It is more to do with the quality of power and the current delivery. Muddled sound can be an effect of an amp not being able to control the speakers. But, I would not worry about this for now. I have not heard Marantz so I cannot say for sure but I think you can make a lot of improvement with addressing DAC and Source files at this stage than amp.
4) Well ideally a R+L pre out to two powered subs with pre-in is the best way if you MUST have subwoofers in stereo setup. I don't have the experience of using a subwoofer with high level inputs, but I would always prefer a straight connection between the amp and speakers of the calibre of Mentor Menuet and Marantz. God knows what the Elac sub is doing to it in the filtering process. That is why I suggested using speaker B for sub if high level connection is the only option. But as someone has suggested the pre-out with a Y-cable is a better way given the situation.

Your Asus per se is a good device with an onboard DAC. Why are you using the arcam together? Connect your laptop with an USB type B cable with Asus. Run 2 RCA interconnects from ASUS L & R out to your amp and 1 decent subwoofer cable from ASUS "Side" to LFE IN on your sub.
No harm in trying the Asus on its own as well. I have no experience with Asus soundcards. It is unlikely that it will outperform the rLink, leave alone better DACs than that.
 

firearm12

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Messages
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Location
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What are your subwoofer settings ?

Drop the A+B plan...

Try a different DAC

I have heard the mentor Menuet and like them

What is the speaker positioning like ?

A picture will help

Which speaker cables do u use ?


Regards


Speaker cables are unbranded 14 gauge. Will changing speaker cables make so much difference.

Subwoofer crossover set at around 70 hz and volume between 2-3 db

I have prepared a rough sketch of room. Excuse my bad drawing.
 

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ghatgepatil

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Weak analogue signals get most affected by incompatible medium. This should be the cheapest hit-n-trial to try out. Try switching between 3 or 4 different inter-connects ie. DAC to amp connection. You have mentioned 'muddled' sound during too much of instruments amongst vocal track. This happens in an IC mismatch. Try it.
 
M

mpw

Guest
Agree with GP.

Try a different DAC on loaner if you can locate willing HF. Members.

The sub is in a corner position. Try getting it closer to the
Speakers ....try between the speakers as well.

U see...everybody likes those little menuets

:)
 

bornfi

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Sep 9, 2015
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USA
Hello Guys,


I didn't have much experience in hifi and prepared my first setup about a year ago. Much of the gear I got was sourced used/second hand. I have listened to this setup extensively for an year but now I am in a big dilemma to find the weakest link in this setup to upgrade. My gear and audio flow is as follows.

Foobar (PC usb) -> Asus Xonar U7 (SPDIF out) -> Arcam rlink DAC (analog Line out)-> Marantz PM8003

Then Marantz amp is connected to Dali Mentor Menuet bookshelf Speakers. Due to lack of bass, I added later an Elac SUB 111.2 ESP subwoofer (speaker level input).


My collection is all FLAC/mp3 files. I listen to folk/rock songs of 60s-70s and Bollywood songs old and new, also some classical Indian music

The sound signature is generally warm,dark and with a good staging and airy sound. Its as per my like. Below are my my concerns


1) sometimes the bass is just non-existent in songs, especially bollywood 90s songs. For same songs, my bose sounddock produces good bass.
2) the setup sounds fine if the song has less instruments in it e.g. folk/instrumental songs, but becomes all muddled up as I move it to more rock based songs. All the bass/vocals/instuments gets mixed.
3) Listening at low volume does not sound enriching. I need to step up volume to make the sound better whereas I like to listen in low volumes. I dont know why its like that.

Considering my lack of hifi knowledge, can anyone please guide me and suggest if I can get some relief by upgrading DAC/speaker/amp. Can this be a result of these different hardware not gelling together. I am ready to upgrade but dont know what to upgrade in the chain and if it would benefit me or not. Can these issues be solved by using a higher grade DAC than arcam rlink. What DAC is recommended for upgradation. Or shall I attribute these issues are to low quality recordings.

Please listen to your system with a headphone, once after the DAC (before amp - situation 1) and then after the amp (situation 2) and share your thoughts if you hear the sound you want?

If you like situation 1 - amp is not doing what you like.
If you like situation 2 - speakers are not doing what you like.
If you like neither of situations, let us know.

Please do not compare it with Bose because that is false bass. Unfortunately, the time period music you mentioned did not either have bass or if it had, those were not transferred properly for us on CDs, cassettes etc.
 

firearm12

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Messages
925
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Location
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Please listen to your system with a headphone, once after the DAC (before amp - situation 1) and then after the amp (situation 2) and share your thoughts if you hear the sound you want?

If you like situation 1 - amp is not doing what you like.
If you like situation 2 - speakers are not doing what you like.
If you like neither of situations, let us know.

Please do not compare it with Bose because that is false bass. Unfortunately, the time period music you mentioned did not either have bass or if it had, those were not transferred properly for us on CDs, cassettes etc.

The dac does not have a headphone out, so cannot listen to dac before amp.

Yes its correct that bose has false bass and it colours on the music that it produces. But I always wonder why it produces "bass" consistently on all music it plays where as my marantz setup produces good bass on some tracks and for others I have to check whether my sub is on or off :D
 

firearm12

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Joined
Sep 24, 2014
Messages
925
Points
93
Location
noida
Agree with GP.

Try a different DAC on loaner if you can locate willing HF. Members.

The sub is in a corner position. Try getting it closer to the
Speakers ....try between the speakers as well.

U see...everybody likes those little menuets

:)

:) These speakers are very fast and engaging, very easy to ears with no fatigue. Music really flows through them.
 
M

mpw

Guest
I agree.

I heard them extensively and they are very good little pocket dynamos !
 

firearm12

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Messages
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Location
noida
Thanks for all inputs. I made few changes in my setup yesterday which changed the sound considerably.

1) I connected the sub to terminal B out on the amp and speakers to terminal A on the amp. I feel this lowered the bass volume but on the speaker side, sound now became more crispy.

2) I tried connecting normal RCA cable from amp (Left pre out) to sub LFE in. Bass certainly changed and became much more prominent than earlier :). I had to decrease the sub volume for the subtle bass I am always looking for in songs just to fill in the music. I am not sure I like this kind of bass or the previous more subtle kind with high level inputs. Will also try connecting an rca y cable to see what effect it has.

3) Also in foobar, I changed the output to kernel streaming (KS out). This improved soundstage and made the audio even more clear than before but the musicality was lost somewhere if feel. Maybe its because we get used to a particular sound as we listen to it.


With multiple changes done, I think now I have to make changes one by one and and listen to the setup for some days and try to find what I like.
 

Mayank Shah

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Hi, What is downstream of your Foobar? Which equipment is connected first - your rcam or asus? Have you installed the respective audio driver in windows? If drivers are installed - select the right one from Foobar and see if there is a change. Preferably AISO or WASPI driver. You are on the right track. keep fiddling / adjusting / changing till you get the right sound. Key is to remember which setting gave what...:D
 

aashish351

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Joined
Oct 14, 2009
Messages
958
Points
63
Location
Gurgaon
Thanks for all inputs. I made few changes in my setup yesterday which changed the sound considerably.

1) I connected the sub to terminal B out on the amp and speakers to terminal A on the amp. I feel this lowered the bass volume but on the speaker side, sound now became more crispy.

2) I tried connecting normal RCA cable from amp (Left pre out) to sub LFE in. Bass certainly changed and became much more prominent than earlier :). I had to decrease the sub volume for the subtle bass I am always looking for in songs just to fill in the music. I am not sure I like this kind of bass or the previous more subtle kind with high level inputs. Will also try connecting an rca y cable to see what effect it has.

3) Also in foobar, I changed the output to kernel streaming (KS out). This improved soundstage and made the audio even more clear than before but the musicality was lost somewhere if feel. Maybe its because we get used to a particular sound as we listen to it.


With multiple changes done, I think now I have to make changes one by one and and listen to the setup for some days and try to find what I like.
1) I hope you switched the amp to Speaker A+B when you connected sub to B. Sometimes we can overlook these things.
2) only one rca will send only one channel's bass to the sub. That's very wrong for stereo. Y-cable is the correct way if using pre outs. Remember integrated is not sending a summed LFE like an avr.

I have a couple of pieces of unused Y- connecters lying. Can send it you if you don't find it locally.

Against common opinion, I will advise you to once place the sub in the middle of two speakers out in the room (away from walls). See how it goes.
 

aashish351

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In continuation to my previous reply, I am realizing that you actually cannot use the y connector like that. It's actually meant for the reverse. Connecting one LFE out to two subs. Summing two pre outs is not that simple. Someone more technical please correct me. Please don't try before understanding this fully. I must admit that I'm now doubtful.
 

firearm12

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Hi, What is downstream of your Foobar? Which equipment is connected first - your rcam or asus? Have you installed the respective audio driver in windows? If drivers are installed - select the right one from Foobar and see if there is a change. Preferably AISO or WASPI driver. You are on the right track. keep fiddling / adjusting / changing till you get the right sound. Key is to remember which setting gave what...:D

Asus is connected using usb to my laptop. Drivers are installed. I also installed ASIO4ALL but Asus is not showing under ASIO. I installed kernel streaming component in foobar. I can only use Asus by selecting only one of two outputs, either "Asus : SPDIF output" or kernel streaming "KS: SPDIF out". I dont have any experience with WASAPI.
 
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