I’m wowed by all the thoughtful and insightful comments (why cant the rest of the internet be like this:)!
I’ll try to conglomerate everything y’all’ve told me here, get into more detail and let you know what I’ve been futzing with the last few days
It looks like everything is tied into a couple of categories:
-Speaker position/room acoustics
A whole bunch…for youtube, netflix etc I use airplay (when it works, thanks apple), for my own library I use the HEOS (just sends the file straight to the DAC over network), and everything else is Spotify (though I might try a tidal or Qobuz). In the early 2000s I ripped every CD I had and most of the originals have either been lost or scratched to hell in the ravages of time. I know these are not the best, and I tried that test of WAV vs 320 vs 128 on NPR and didn’t do so great so I’m not sure if my ears are trained to discriminate that aspect of sound yet. Though to be honest, since I know that the audio information is contained in my local files are in there from listening on iPad I’m not sure if moving to super high bitrates will make much of a difference.
One would expect that the DAC inside my reciever is heads to shoulder better than the one in an ipad. I’m not sure if mine is. I tried some A/B comparisons using the same track (beethoven 9 mvnt 2) on HEOS and RCA (directly into ipads headphone jack, and yes thats how old the ipad is, its an apple product w/ headphone jack:) and didn’t notice too much of a difference, though it was definitely clearer from HEOS. Looking it up online its an AK4458VN chip, though the internet doesn’t have much to say about it. I’m more than willing to give a separate DAC a try, I hear that the Shiit Modi is spectacular.
Speaker Position/room acoustics:
Yeah…, hardwood floors, minimalist furniture, lots of glass…not a great recipe. Thinking about popping down to Home Depot and a fabric store to make some panels out of rock wool or old towels. Its a project I’ve been wanting to do anyways to help tame my baby grand piano. HThaller, your recommendation on that book looks really cool. That’s part of the reason I’m doing this too is to further my knowledge of sound. I’ve brought the speakers forward from the wall from about 1 foot to 2.5 and my listening chair about 6 inches and have noted a marked improvement in clarity, probably not least of which is the greater proportion of direct sound and no hardwood at all to reflect off of now that its closer to the rug.
I knew the Denon probably wasnt going to be the greatest, I’ll get into why/how later. But knowing that I’d probably at somepoint throw it downstairs to get a surround system going later, I just wasn’t expecting to need to replace it so soon:) Maybe this is a case of half-assing something causing more headaches than doing it once properly. I’ve been looking at the sprout and ragnarok options mentioned. Those electostats a few of you have mentioned look really interesting, I might take a trip to the Magnepan store next time I’m in minneapolis. However if I do keep the denon (for now) it seems like they are quite difficult to drive; the Denon says 80 watts at 8 ohms (presumeably 160 at 4 ohms if it were a perfect amp).
I’ve also set up the Denon correctly and fidgeted with just about everything, everything is phased correctly, all the cables in the correct terminal etc. I did also mess with bi-amping the neighbors klipsches. The elacs only have one pair of binding posts, so no bi-amping alas, it was cool while it lasted. Unless… I stuff two wires into a single banana plug to bi-amp it…that seems like it either wouldn’t do anything or might make it worse…thoughts?
That room is my main practicing, teaching, reading and relaxing room… So I guess the primary purpose is to sit back at the end of the day and let some music wash over me. But unfortunately for me all listening is critical listening (hence my problem). I also wanted it to be used for some passive background stuff (a consideration for electrostats, looks like the listening position is extremely narrow) and to upgrade the sound whenever I watch youtube or netflix (which is almost always on ipad). I also wanted to be able to control the system without having to get up everytime I change track, source or volume (which could be a huge problem with the sprout). Something I’ve gotten to love about the denon is the ability to start up the radio from my phone when I wake up…its sublime. Another surprising benefit that I’ve come to adore is the dynamic range compression it can do (meant as a late night mode). One of the problems I’ve found with classical (and movies) on even a decent system like mine is that it goes from basically inaudible to painfully loud, on ipad or car stereo or headphones I’m guessing that theres some of that built in or its a property of crappy speakers or both. Although it does take away from the dynamics that everyone seems to value, I find it is way more like a live classical concert (I took my db meter app to the last symphony concert, the range was about 60-90 db on average. My system with the same music was 40-85. Probably not terribly accurate…but for reference). Is there any way to do DRC on a non-AVR? Internet searches haven’t turned up much of use.
That also brings me to another goal. I’ve noticed that it seems that the audiophile goal is to have your system sound as close to a live performance as possible. I don’t think thats what I want. Take my cities orchestra… its really good and in a very good hall and I’ve sat just about everywhere in the audience. A lot of nuances in the score are lost quite often, say the horns get over rambunctious and blow over a viola line or the rest of the orchestra forgot that the harpist exists. Take the end of the Grieg piano concerto, the scales and arpeggios the piano plays will always get completely washed out by the orchestra when live but when recorded you can hear both. I will of course go see the live thing over listening at home, but at home I want that detail. Plus you don’t have to deal with coughing:)
I too bemoan the lack of dedicated audio stores. Theres only one in my area but when I mentioned my budget was 750-1000 for a starter system he just ignored me, apparently not worth it for him unless dropping 10g’s or more. Would’ve saved a lot of hassle to just bring a system home to try. Went to best buy, the guy there was great and I wound up with what I have now.
Sorry for being long winded, I’ve got one more super important update. The denon has an eco mode that lowers power consumption. For a while I’ve thought that I’ve heard clipping or distortion especially with piano-only music…its been driving me nuts. Ive only had eco mode off (so full power), but I accidentally turned it on and BAM everything distorts like theres a wasps nest in there. The speakers are fine, its the amp (I tried them on an old broken 5 watt radio and they sounded fine). My listening level is usually around 70 db so it just shouldn’t be clipping at all, which means maybe my Denon isn’t 80 watts but 80 milliwatts. So maybe this whole thing is just a result of me buying a defective product! Sending it in for repairs or replacement. Everything is on hold until then.
Gosh this was rambly, but thank you so much to all your replies and advice.